The creator of Candy Crush Saga has laid legal claim to the words 'candy' and 'saga' as pertains to gaming, and is going after other games.
It's fairly normal for developers to trademark the titles of their games to keep confusion down and brand recognition up. What's less common is trademarking individual words — and then going after titles that have the temerity to use any of those words.
However, that's what Candy Crush Saga (and other 'saga' games) developer King.com is up to. The company was recently awarded a trademark on the word 'candy' from the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
According to King.com, though, it only wished to prevent games that copied its gameplay as well as using similar naming conventions. It told CNET Asia,
We have trademarked the word 'candy' in the EU, as our IP is constantly being infringed and we have to enforce our rights and to protect our players from confusion. We don't enforce against all uses of 'candy' — some are legitimate and of course, we would not ask app developers who use the term legitimately to stop doing so.
However, the game in question is not a match-three title in the same vein as Candy Crush Saga (or Bejeweled, for that matter), but a casino slots game — it seems that King.com's objection is to the use of confection.
This is backed up by a trademark dispute filed last week with the USPTO — over Viking strategy game for PC and Mac, The Banner Saga. King.com also has a pending trademark claim on the word 'saga'. According to the document (PDF) filed by King.com, developer Stoic's use of the word 'saga' is likely to cause confusion, even though the games are nothing alike — and without taking into account the meaning or origin of the word.
(Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET Australia)
According to the dispute, though, King.com has not just trademarked the word as it pertains to games — it has also trademarked it for "Scientific, nautical, surveying, photographic, cinematographic, optical, weighing, measuring, signalling, checking (supervision), life-saving and teaching apparatus and instruments, namely, computer hardware and peripherals; Apparatus and instruments for conducting, switching, transforming, accumulating, regulating or controlling electricity, namely, wireless computer peripherals; Apparatus for recording, transmission or reproduction of sound or images; blank magnetic data carriers, blank magnetic data recording discs; Compact discs, DVDs and other digital recording media featuring games; Mechanisms for coin-operated apparatus; Cash registers, calculating machines, data processing equipment, computers" and more.
King.com claims that it is not in fact trying to stop The Banner Saga from changing its name, but trying to set a precedent for future cases, should they arise. "King has not and is not trying to stop Banner Saga from using its name...In this case, that means preserving our ability to enforce our rights in cases where other developers may try to use the Saga mark in a way which infringes our IP and rights and causes player confusion. If we had not opposed Banner Saga's trademark application, it would be much easier for real copycats to argue that their use of 'Saga' was legitimate," the company said in a statement.
However, the dispute reads, "Opposer asks that its opposition to this application be sustained and that registration of the term "The Banner Saga" for the goods/services set forth therein be refused." So which is it — the official legal filing, or the retraction following an uproar from the public?
The entire debacle is a bit too reminiscent of the Edge Games saga, where owner Tim Langdell decided that, rather than making games, he'd gun for anything gaming-related that used the word 'edge'. This, it ought to be noted, did not end well for Langdell when he eventually went after Electronic Arts' Mirror's Edge.
Stoic, however, as a small independent developer, does not have EA's money or lawyers. Perhaps someone ought to point out Papa Pear Saga's startling content similarity to EA's Peggle?