The lawsuit between Upper Deck and Lorcana has been top of all TCG and Disney collectors' minds this month. Will this lawsuit cause a delay for Lorcana, will it be released at all, what even is this lawsuit about? Initially, most people who are not familiar with the TCG inner workings assumed this lawsuit was based on licensing issues. We have seen several Disney products released by Asian companies without American releases and that was likely because Upper Deck has held the Disney license since 2000.
In August of 2022 at D23, a Disney fan club event, Ravensburger announced Lorcana and debuted seven cards from the set. Now, nearly one year later, as the much anticipated August 18th release date approaches; Upper Deck has thrown a wrench in the works for this set.
What is Ravensburger? It is a 140 year old German board game company that has expanded to puzzles, books, card games, tarot decks, media companies and much more. They have a North American branch in Seattle, Washington that releases several games annually. Interestingly, that branch’s most popular game, Villainous, is based on various Disney properties.
Why would Upper Deck sue Ravensburger? It’s not a licensing issue according to Jason Masherah, president of Upper Deck, the reason is far more complex. It isn’t simply Ravensburger that is named in the lawsuit. Upper Deck alleges that former employee, Ryan Miller, stole the exact idea for their upcoming release, Rush of Ikorr, and created Lorcana for Ravensburger; which according to Masherah is a carbon copy of the Upper Deck game.
Ryan Miller was hired by Upper Deck to be the lead designer on their next TCG game. He allegedly worked on the project for some time before terminating his contract and joining Ravensburger. As more and more images and game play were released about Lorcana, Upper Deck felt the game was a copycat of the product they had been designing. The very one that Miller had worked on.
Even if Upper Deck’s claims that their IP has been taken by a former employee and brought to a competitor are true it will be a hard case to prove. Unfortunately for Upper Deck, game play in TCG games are all quite similar. Lorcana has already been compared to Magic The Gathering in so far as game mechanics. It will be hard to argue that an idea was stolen when all TCG games have similar mechanics and mechanics are not a protected idea under copyright infringement. This is why Upper Deck likely will not be fighting this as a copyright battle. It is more likely that it will be breach of contract and sharing of confidential information issues. There has also been a lot of speculation that Upper Deck has already waited too long to take action and probably will be unsuccessful in delaying the release of Lorcana.
The TCG fanbase has taken sides and Upper Deck knows its stance isn’t exactly popular among collectors who have been anticipating this release. President, Jason Masherah, was very compassionate in his discussion of the issue on Jeremy Lee’s Sports Cards Live podcast. He stated that he knew that people would be disappointed but his team was heartbroken seeing their work allegedly stolen.
For their part Ravensburger has said about the lawsuit and allegations: “We at Ravensburger stand behind the integrity of our team and the originality of our products. The baseless claims filed this week are entirely without merit, and we look forward to proving this in due time. In the meantime our focus continues to be on developing and launching a fantastic game in August.” in tweets on June 9th.
Public support seems to be behind Ravensburger, but as Jason Masherah has said, TCG players have a strong sense of justice. The comments on Jeremy Lee’s podcast showed the sway in people’s opinions as they listened to the President of Upper Deck plead his case. Will that translate into a legal win for Upper Deck, have they waited too late to take action, will both games end up being released? Only time will tell!