Epic Games has received at least a temporary reprieve from a series of lawsuits filed in recent months concerning specific dance moves being included as emotes in the battle royale game, Fortnite. According to the most recent development, those lawsuits cannot move forward until an actual patent has been granted for the individual dances.
Fortnite is full of emotes, including several dances made popular on television and YouTube. Late last year, a series of lawsuits started rolling out concerning some of those dances, specifically in relation to their being used in the game without any sort of official permission or contract. In short, those folks felt that since Epic was making money off of the dances, the dance creators deserved a cut of the profits.
So, in short order, those folks filed for patents on their dances and then joined in a lawsuit against Epic. According to a report from Polygon, though, the legal proceedings have hit something of a brick wall. In the past, you could file a lawsuit like this immediately after filing for a patent on the content. As an example, Russell “Backpack Kid” Horning became famous because of his popular “floss dance.” Epic picked up on the dance’s popularity and included it as an emote in Fortnite. Recently, Horning filed for a patent on the dance and then joined the lawsuit against Epic. That’s pretty much the case with five potential dance creators, including Fresh Prince’s Alfonso Ribeiro, Terrence “2 Milly” Ferguson, James “BlocBoyJB” Baker and someone known as “Orange Shirt Kid.”
According to the most recent report, though, a decision in the Supreme Court’s case last week, Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. Wall-Street.com, has set a precedence for a patent needing to be granted before such a lawsuit can continue. In other words, if it hasn’t been determined that you own the dance, maybe we should pump the brakes on a lawsuit. For that reason, the Epic lawsuits have been thrown out for the time being.
The extra tricky part of this legal puzzle is that it is very, very hard to patent a dance move. You can jump through some hoops to patent a full dance routine, but patenting something as straightforward as “The Floss” or “The Carlton” is a difficult process.
Anyway, before the lawsuits against Epic can continue, those five folks listed above need to actually achieve their patents and, considering how difficult that process is, Epic may have just been spared a rather timely and expensive legal battle.