King.com Trademarks ‘Candy’
Published: Monday, January 27, 2014
Updated: Monday, January 27, 2014 14:01
What do you do when you’re one of (if not the) biggest company in mobile game development? You trademark the name of your product, of course!
Mobile games, especially on the Apple App Store, are notorious for being cloned by fifth-rate copycats looking to make a few bucks by slapping together a busted mess of a game, giving it a name similar to the hottest new title and slipping it past Apple’s lazy, practically nonexistent, quality control.
But what do you do when your game is called something as ubiquitous as “Candy Crush Saga?” King.com found the answer—trademark the word “candy” and start getting litigious, as the gaming world found out through a report on Gamezebo last week.
At first, it just seems odd. “Candy” is an incredibly common term—it would be like trying to trademark “elephant.” It just doesn’t work. Then it starts getting worrisome.
“We are the owners of ‘Candy’ in the E.U., U.S., and elsewhere,” reads an App Store notice sent to Benjamin Hsu. “The prominent use of our mark by [Hsu] infringes our rights and is likely to lead to consumer confusion and damage to our brand. Please remove this app as soon as possible.”
Hsu is one of the developers on “All Candy Casino Slots.” Notably, Hsu’s game is a casino-style slot machine game while Candy Crush Saga, the biggest mobile game in the world right now, and King’s flagship, is a match-three puzzle game.
Clearly, the former isn’t a direct clone of the latter product, but King believes that by using the term “candy” in the title of the iOS game, (which only reads as “Candy Slots” on the App Store search page) they’re intentionally trying to confuse the market and damage the “Candy Crush” brand.
Still, this is an iOS issue, limited to iOS platforms. In a world so inundated with shady marketing schemes and cloning, a little knee-jerk reaction is expected.
That’s when things finally get just plain weird.
“The Banner Saga” is a recently released indie game from new studio Stoic Games. It was funded through a very successful Kickstarter and released on Steam earlier this month. The game follows a group of Vikings in an Oregon Trail-meets-Fire Emblem strategy role-playing game epic. It received high praise for its amazing visuals, bleak and subtle story and unique mechanics.
King has also challenged this trademark. Not for the word “candy,” of course, but for the word “saga.”
I’ll step aside for a moment to point out that “saga” is defined as a story about Scandinavian or Germanic history—you know, Vikings.
King’s trademark on the word “saga” actually has yet to clear, but that hasn’t stopped them from already filing a notice of opposition against Stoic in order to stop the new developer from trademarking its own game’s name (that is, “The Banner Saga,” not “saga,” or “banner,” or “the”). Doing so will keep Stoic from fighting against clones (the very thing trademark laws were invented for) and delays a sequel with what is clearly nonsense legal hullaballoo.
Stoic has been very vocal about how ridiculous the whole affair is, as have most game journalists and a group of indie developers who have started the “Candy Jam.”
Said “Candy Jam” is a protest against King’s scorched earth trademark policy in the form of a game jam, where the developers will intentionally create a glut of games based upon, and featuring the word, candy.
The biggest issue here, and the one that many are trying to point out, is that U.S. and U.K. trademark law is a broken, terrible system—they have been for decades. They allow big corporations to file for incredibly common English words and hang onto them by having more money for legal fees than the other guy.
They also make it so that if King wants to keep the “candy” or “saga” trademarks they must use slash-and-burn tactics to prove that they care to keep the brand. The reason that King is at fault, however, is because they can’t own the brand. The idea that saying common words a lot gives you retroactive inheritance over it is ludicrous.
Hopefully, this whole thing will be resolved amicably with King realizing the error of its ways and bowing out of this game—or the trademark office steps in and admits they made a big whoopsie. The public gets more “Banner Saga” games, King continues making money hand-over-fist regardless and as usual, Western civilization gets a big win and precedent-setting moment for sensible copyright laws.
Unfortunately, I doubt it will be so easy.