Two developers have presented a legal argument that Valve cannot claim ownership to the DOTA intellectual property.
The name DOTA originates from a Warcraft III mod named Defense of the Ancient's but is now more widely known thanks to its use in Valve's popular MOBA title DOTA 2. Blizzard and Valve reached an agreement in 2012 that permitted Valve to keep using the name for standalone games, with Blizzard retaining the rights for mods associated with Warcraft and Starcraft.
Ars Technica reports that Valve and Blizzard are now suing two mobile developers – Lilith and uCool – as they intend to repurpose the branding for upcoming mobile titles DOTA Legends and Heroes Charge.
uCool has argued that DOTA's history, which spans many titles by many creators, means that it is a collective work. The EULA, which prevented modders from using the DOTA editor for commercial purposes, has also been cited – although lawyers from the other side claim this was effectively nullified when the DOTA copyright was sold to Valve.
One lingering thread comes from a forum post in 2004 in which one of DOTA creators declared the project to be open source, granting permission for future creators to release a version of DOTA without my consent”.
The intentions of this statement, and the legal scope it offers, will likely be the source of much of the upcoming legal debate.
A jury is now set to decide the outcome, with the possibility remaining that several DOTA clones could spill into the marketplace.