Gleiss Lutz obtains landmark decision for Blizzard Entertainment before the Federal Court of Justice: Distribution of bot programs for World of Warcraft impermissible

In a longstanding landmark dispute over the permissibility of the distribution of automation software for the computer game “World of Warcraft” (so-called bot programs), US computer game developer Blizzard Entertainment prevailed over Bossland GmbH, a leading provider of Bot programs.

Thanks to the development of its popular computer games “World of Warcraft”, “StarCraft”, “Diablo III” and “Overwatch”, Blizzard is among the most successful video game developers in the world. Bossland GmbH has distributed bot programs for various Blizzard games since 2010. Bot programs perform certain tasks in a computer game - largely autonomously - without requiring any interaction with a human user. The use of bot programs is prohibited under the terms of use for Blizzard games.

Blizzard had brought an action against the distribution of bot programs for World of Warcraft by Bossland GmbH. The Hamburg Regional Court and the Hanseatic Higher Regional Court of Hamburg had already ruled in favour of Blizzard Entertainment. In a decision of 12 January 2017, Bossland GmbH’s appeal on points of law was dismissed by the First Civil Chamber of the Federal Court of Justice (FCJ).

The judgment sends an important message to all computer game developers who wish to defend themselves against the distribution of bot and cheat programs for their games. The FCJ made it clear that the distribution of bot programs for online games is anticompetitive and does not have to be tolerated by computer game developers. The decision also supports the interests of all honest players who wish to compete with other players at fair and undistorted game conditions.

Blizzard was represented in the proceedings on the merits by a Gleiss Lutz team headed by Dr. Andreas Wehlau (partner, lead) and Dr. Matthias Werner (counsel) (both IP/IT, Munich), which included the following lawyers: Dr. Björn Kalbfus and Sophia Ostler (both IP/IT, Munich); Representative before the FCJ: Prof. Dr. Christian Rohnke.

FCJ, judgment of 12 January 2017 (case no: I ZR 253/14) – World of Warcraft II