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Jury to decide whether Valve owns DOTA

Two games studios challenge the company's ownership to DOTA

Two game developers have gone to court to fight Valve over its ownership of the DOTA IP.

DOTA stands for Defence of the Ancients, a mod created for Warcraft III. It is now best known as the smash hit MOBA created by Valve. Valve and Blizzard - which owns the IP to Warcraft - reached an agreement in 2012 that allowed Valve to keep using the name in its games, while Blizzard kept the rights for mods associated with Warcraft and Starcraft.

Now, as reported by Ars Technica, two mobile studios - Lilith and uCool - are challenging this. Both studios are creating games that use the DOTA branding. uCool is creating Heroes Charge, while Lilith is working on Dota Legends.

uCool said that, because DOTA's history incorporates so many creators and titles, that it is actually a collective work and its title merely combines the most popular characters from all of these games. Yet the Judge dismissed this by observing that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is effectively the same thing, and you wouldn't suggest that was a collective work.

Another issue is that the original mod had an End User License Agreement, which prevented people from using the DOTA editor for commercial purposes (including within standalone projects) - something that was ignored when DOTA was sold to Valve. Indeed, the Judge said that this seemed "as commercial as uses go."

And then there's the the 2004 forum post from one of the original DOTA creators, who declared the project to be open source and granted permission for creators to use or release a DOTA game without his consent.

Whether that forum post is legally binding is not clear. North California Federal Judge Charles Breyer delivered a ruling that denied summary judgement (which means a judgement made without a full trial). Therefore, the case will go before a jury.

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Christopher Dring avatar

Christopher Dring

Head of Games B2B

Chris is a 15-year media veteran specialising in the business of video games. And, erm, Doctor Who