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Social Media and Games



Sheppard Mullin was one of the first major law firms to create a multidisciplinary games industry team.  The social media and interactive games industries have grown to support different forms of interactive entertainment, hardware and software platforms, and business models. Our nationally recognized, multidisciplinary team includes patent lawyers with strong technical backgrounds in the electrical and computer arts, other intellectual property lawyers who protect brands and expressive content, transactional and financing lawyers who get deals done, and those with unique experience in sports industries, digital media and distribution, digital business, advertising, gambling, fantasy sports, and virtual currencies.  Capable of handling any challenge, our Social Media & Games team has expanded to more than 70 lawyers in 15 offices in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

Multidisciplinary Focus

In addition to the regulatory, financing, and game distribution issues traditionally facing many game companies, Sheppard Mullin’s Social Media & Games team advises clients on legal and business issues to evolve the social media and videogame industries to new forms of entertainment and new platforms including:

  • IP Protection for Games – We help clients develop and implement comprehensive IP protection strategies and are one of the most active filers of game-related patents in the United States.  We have advised on numerous deals involving rights to develop games based on blockbuster movies.
  • Legality of Business Models Involving Gamblification – We advise many clients regarding games using mechanics that require consideration of federal and state anti-gambling and/or anti-lottery laws. It is imperative for companies in these spaces to carefully vet their business models with legal counsel who understands these issues. We have the leading game-based practice that focuses on these issues, including the ramifications of virtual goods/currency and secondary markets on the legality of these business models. We have deep experience advising clients on the emerging legal issues with many of the hottest money-making game models in the industry, such as:
        • Fantasy Sports – The rapid growth and success of fantasy sports and the emerging business models, particularly daily fantasy (and other short-term models), has led to regulatory and legislative scrutiny.
        • Social Casino Games – Many of the top-revenue generating games in the app stores are social casino games. Several of the leading companies in this space have been subject to class-actions for allegedly using illegal gambling mechanics. 
        • Real-Money Skill-based Games – Nevada’s passage of SB9 and New Jersey’s legislative action promoting real-money, skill-based games will lead to tremendous business opportunities balanced by the need for careful legal structuring of these offerings.
  • eSports – We leverage our firm’s unparalleled depth in representing traditional sports teams, leagues, athletes, broadcasters, streaming services and advertisers with our in-depth game experience to provide comprehensive advice to companies in the eSports space. Our experience enables us to cover: 
        • IP Protection for eSports game mechanics and business models
        • League, team and players issues
        • Tournament structures
        • Advertising, promotions and sponsorships
        • Fantasy sports based on eSports
        • Gambling on eSports
  • Virtual Goods and Currencies – We advise clients, who leverage virtual goods and currencies for monetization, on the associated legal issues that can arise. We help ensure that the terms of service protect our client from foreseeable issues including class action lawsuits, and advise on the regulatory issues that may arise depending on the virtual currency model (e.g., issues under stored value and money-transmitter laws) and the impact of and strategy for addressing secondary markets.

  • Transactions and Financings – We help clients with critical business issues including financings (e.g., innovative finance structures for game production budgets), complex transactions involving the purchase and sale of games and game companies, and licensing issues, including: 
          • Venture capital and financing
          • Corporate formation and governance
          • Game development and publishing deals
          • Streaming and broadcast agreements
          • Mergers and acquisitions
  • Other Related Services – Our team draws upon a variety of legal fields, including intellectual property, mergers and acquisitions, tax, employment, and litigation, to provide:
          • Structuring and enabling content development, production, and distribution for interactive entertainment properties
          • Creating resilient licensing and merchandising agreements
          • Supporting branded entertainment efforts through legally sound promotions and advertising campaigns
          • Structuring End-user License Agreements and Terms of Service
          • Developing effective User Generated Content policies
          • Handling employment issues stemming from programmer “crunch time” provisions
          • Statutory interpretation and application (FCC, CDA and DMCA)
          • First Amendment protection (including obscenity, defamation, and privacy issues)

Industry Involvement 

We are involved in nurturing promising startups through game-related incubators, including:

  • YetiZen in San Francisco
  • Serious Games Institute in Virginia 
  • Founders Institute in New York and San Diego

Our team attends dozens of industry events each year and is frequently invited to speak at leading industry conferences worldwide, including:

  • Augmented Reality Event
  • CES Annual Games Summit
  • eSports Conference
  • G2E
  • Game Developers Conference
  • GameBeats Conference
  • Gaming Now Conference
  • Gigse
  • Global iGaming Summit & Expo
  • Neurogaming Conference
  • Videogame Bar Association Annual Meeting

We represent a variety of clients, from the largest companies in the industry, to many midsize social media and gaming companies, promising startups, and emerging growth companies, including:

  • Videogame developers and publishers
  • Businesses providing middleware tools and services to developers and publishers
  • Media companies licensing content for videogames including:
            • Mobile and Tablet Games
            • Social Games
            • Console/PC Games
            • Online Games
  • Cloud-based Games
Representative Clients
  • Activision Blizzard
  • Big Fish Games
  • Cosmic Forces
  • Disney
  • Electronic Arts
  • Fanvision Entertainment
  • Fortiss
  • Fox Interactive
  • Gamefly
  • Game Show Network
  • Golfzone  
  • IGN Entertainment
  • Jagex Limited
  • Kabam
  • LuckyLabs
  • Machine Zone
  • Monster Games
  • Oculus
  • Riot Games
  • Scopely
  • Snapchat
  • Sony Computer Entertainment America
  • Spokeo
  • Square Enix   
  • Toca Boca
  • Turtle Beach
  • Twitch
  • Ultimate Game Chair
  • Universal Entertainment   
  • Vulcun
  • Zeebo

Recent representative matters include:

  • Activision – IP regarding $100M acquisition of the Guitar Hero franchise from Red Octane
  • Activision Blizzard Studios – Negotiated license agreement with Netflix for two seasons of the animated Skylanders Academy series based on one of Activision’s most recognizable video game franchises: Skylanders
  • BoosterMedia – Acquisition of the Hallpass Media web game network from SGN Games, Inc.
  • BooYah – Trademark and patent prosecution
  • BringIt, Inc. – Acquisition by International Game Technology (IGT)
  • Cosmic Forces – Licensing rights to make mobile game based on the Goosebumps movie
  • Electronic Arts – Licensing and patent prosecution
  • Essence Digital – Negotiated digital media strategy with DoubleDown
  • Fox Sports – Structuring and documenting online fantasy sports collaborations
  • Game Course – Trademark and patent prosecution
  • Game Show Network – Interactive programming initiatives and online and social gaming campaigns
  • Hitch Radio – Corporate and strategic advice to social-listening application Hitch Radio
  • Machine Zone – Branding strategy, clearance, protection and enforcement of their global brands and implementation
  • Oculus and Oculus Story Studios – Various entertainment, licensing and production related transactions, including the production of a promotional video featuring founder Palmer Lucky and the band DragonForce to announce the launch of the VR version of Harmonix’s “Rock Band.”
  • Playfish – Shut down unauthorized secondary markets for its virtual goods and currency
  • PrePlay – Licensing and financing advice
  • Rainmaker Entertainment – Production, distribution and financing relating to theatrical motion picture “Ratchet & Clank”
  • Sky Union (IGG) – Successful defense of class action concerning whether microtransactions in in-app games violate state anti-gambling laws
  • Snapchat  Development of its advertising program and launch of Discover in-app content platform
  • Sony Computer Entertainment America – Corporate and employment
  • Sony Online Entertainment  Trademark and patent prosecution
  • SpeakBeat – Launch of its social polling application
  • Supermassive Games – Creation of the revolutionary, BAFTA Award winning game, “Until Dawn.”
  • Toca Boca  Corporate (including content distribution deal with VTech) and trademark
  • Universal Entertainment – Patent prosecution