Copyright law, as evidenced by the recent YouTube controversy, is sketchy at best. It throws into question who legitimately owns or holds the rights to content and in some cases, simply words. Going back a few years, Mojang (creators of Minecraft) riled up its supporters in publicly calling out Bethesda and ZeniMax for trying to protect the word “Scrolls” for their Elder Scrolls game series when Mojang was attempting to own every aspect of that word – Mojang of course didn’t tell their supporters that part and in the end ZeniMax protected their property and Mojang could still get their game title when they settled.
Fast forward to today and we have another similar situation with another super popular brand. King.com Ltd, creators of Candy Crush Saga, filed a trademark a year ago for the use of the word “Candy” in games and apparel and it was recently granted. Now they’re on a mission to remove apps of a similar nature from app stores.
Candy Crush Saga is one of the world’s most popular mobile and social games and now its developers, who are making millions upon millions from the free-to-play game thanks to its addictive nature, own rights to the word “Candy.” Apple has helped them taked own what could be described as copycat apps. The problem is that “candy” is a common, normal word. Does this open the door to Angry Birds owning “birds” or a popular Tower Defense game owning the word “tower”? It’s a dangerous precedent and a rep from King sent the following statement to Forbes about one of the titles they had removed:
“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.
Protecting an app is fine, but the company arguably shouldn’t be able to own a word like “Candy” especially when the game itself is a clone of the popular Bejeweled - a clone with over half a billion downloads. The name is more important than the original content? Yeap.
[Update: Yes, King is out of control. They've literally gone after The Banner Saga because of the word "Saga." Read about it here.]
Judging by the responses from media and forum users, King is on their way to becoming the next Zynga when it comes to public perception.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.