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Licensing Law: Roblox Sues WowWee For Allegedly Selling Toys Based On Its IP

By Gary Symons

TLL Editor in Chief

The metaverse platform Roblox is suing the Hong Kong toy company WowWee for a line of toys it says were inspired by Roblox avatars.

The suit is aimed at a new line of dolls called My Avastars (seen in above photo), scheduled for release in October through major retailers like Walmart, Target and Macy’s.

The case is among the first examples of copyright infringement lawsuits based on the likeness of metaverse avatars, and could have a lasting impact on companies working in the metaverse.

The My Avastars line was announced in late June, with WowWee announced it was launching a line of new dolls that are also connected to a role playing game on the Roblox platform. At the time, WowWee said the My Avastars figures would have a unique look inspired by Roblox avatars, which feature a deliberately blocky, almost unfinished look.

The company is working US gaming studio Gamefam to simultaneously release the game My Avastars: RP, while the physical My Avastars figures come with product codes allowing the buyer to upload them into the game. That game is played within the Roblox platform.

The issue for Roblox is that WowWee is selling physical dolls that it asserts are based on the distinctive look and feel of Roblox avatars, but without any licensing agreement in place. Roblox then sent WowWee a cease-and-desist letter in June and threatened legal action if WowWee continued with the launch of its My Avastars toy line. WowWee has refused to go that far, but says it voluntarily disassociated the toys from the Roblox platform.

The first wave of My Avastars fashion dolls are slated to hit shelves in October, but Roblox is seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent them from being sold.

The company’s statement of claim says WowWee didn’t just copy the design, but also marketed the design as being based on or inspired by the Roblox avatars.

At the time, WowWee’s VP of brand development and creative strategy, Sydney Wiseman, did reference Roblox avatars as the company announced the new line on June 20.

“We are the first toyco to launch a brand-new IP in Roblox,” said Wiseman. “Nearly 50% of all players on the platform are girls, and we wanted to tap into that audience because dressing up avatars is one of the most popular activities. Most Roblox products are either action figures or blasters, but we wanted to cater to a different audience whose needs aren’t being met, with a new property.

“As much as people consume [content], there’s an equal audience of kids who want to create content on user-generated platforms like TikTok and YouTube because it’s so accessible,” Wiseman added. “And now on Roblox, if you’re at all savvy in coding or programming, you can make your own clothing and sell it online in your store, or even make your own game.”

Roblox alleges the toy company has tacitly admitted copying the design of its avatars to create and sell dolls, and points out that its master toy partner Jazwares is doing the same thing, but operating with a detailed licensing contract in place. As opposed to Jazwares, Roblox claims WowWee did not seek a license for Roblox’s original characters or IP, and that its statements had the effect of misleading consumers to believe the toys were sanctioned by or connected to Roblox.

WowWee is not currently commenting on the case, but did issue a media statement saying Roblox changed its terms of service one week after My Avastars was announced, and that the allegations made in the lawsuit are “completely meritless.”

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