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Disney Lorcana publisher taps famed Magic: The Gathering lawyer in Upper Deck lawsuit

Ravensburger asks that the case be dismissed outright

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Disney Lorcana art (not card) for confirmed character Maleficent (human form) Image: Ravensburger
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Ravensburger, publisher of the highly-anticipated new Disney Lorcana trading card game, has issued a formal response to a lawsuit by competitor Upper Deck. In it, the game and toy manufacturer calls Upper Deck’s lawsuit “the legal equivalent of alchemy” and demands that it be dismissed outright. The announcement, made Thursday in a news release, includes a 34-page legal response. But it also name drops one of the most potent legal minds in the rarefied realm of TCG law, Brian Lewis, whose work as the general counsel at Wizards of the Coast helped pave the way for the current dominance of Magic: The Gathering — but also the larger ecosystem of modern trading card games more generally.

To get you up to speed on the issues at hand, understand that Upper Deck’s lawsuit landed with quite a dramatic thud when it was revealed on June 7. In it, the California-based publisher of sports cards, games, and trading cards alleges that Disney Lorcana co-designer Ryan Miller had previously created a similar game that is “nearly identical” to Disney Lorcana while under contract with Upper Deck. It also asks that the launch of the game, set for August this year, be stopped with an injunction.

Ravensburger vehemently disputes Upper Decks’ claims. In it’s response, Ravensburger even calls into question both the timing and the venue of the lawsuit itself. Taken altogether, it paints Upper Deck’s efforts to design a competing TCG as lazy, and its legal wrangling as wholly opportunistic.

“Upper Deck claims it would have sought the return of confidential information and/or prevented its employees from communicating with Mr. Miller if it was aware of Mr. Miller’s employment at Ravensburger and the company’s work on a competing TCG,” reads the motion to dismiss. “But Upper Deck was aware of Mr. Miller’s employment with Ravensburger and work on Lorcana when the game was announced in September 2022. And despite that awareness, Upper Deck did nothing. Upper Deck cannot now lament that it was damaged by its own inaction.”

It is a complex legal case by any estimation, and touches on issues of work-for-hire and non-compete agreements (or the lack thereof). But at its core this is a lawsuit about game mechanics. So the addition of Lewis as a legal advisor to Ravensburger is therefore notable. That’s because Lewis, in his role with Wizards of the Coast in the 1990s and early 2000s, was instrumental in securing the initial patents that protected Magic around the time of its launch. Those same patents and the legal work that surrounds them have since formed the legal framework for trading card games globally. Without them, it’s unlikely that either Magic or any other successful TCG would exist in the same form it does today.

“Ravensburger has an extremely strong case here,” reads a quote from Lewis in the news release, “and we hope it will be dismissed outright based on today’s motion. While we respect the valid intellectual property rights of others, this appears to be more of a PR stunt than a genuine legal dispute. I also want to add that I’ve had the great fortune to know Ryan Miller personally for over 20 years and consider him to be a person of the highest ethical standards.”

“We’re glad to be moving forward with the legal process and feel very confident in our position,” said Lisa Krueger, senior communications director for Ravensburger North America. “In the meantime, our team is keeping its focus on the upcoming launch. We’re excited to see everyone at Gen Con and can’t wait to see fans begin to purchase this game in our booth.”

For a deeper dive on the nuts and bolts of Lewis’ more than three decades of work in the TCG space, check out The Booster Pack Network’s in-depth, 95-minute interview from January.

Disney Lorcana, motion to dismiss (The Upper Deck Company vs. Ryan Miller and Ravensburger North America, I... by Polygondotcom on Scribd