In what might be one of the craziest stories to come along in quite some time, Candy Crush Saga developer King has been granted a trademark for the word “candy” as it pertains to video games, software, and a few other products. They have done so in order to give themselves the legal means with which to stop copycats from profiting off the Candy Crush name — a noble cause, at first glance.
However, King has taken it one step further and filed a trademark claim against The Banner Saga over the use of the word “saga,” claiming that Stoic Studios’ title causes “confusion” with Candy Crush Saga. Granted, there is no direct correlation between Candy Crush and The Banner Saga — one’s a Bejeweled rip-off with candy and the other is a strategy/RPG hybrid — but alas the trademark claim exists.
Since that time, however, the plot has appropriately thickened, with both King and Stoic Studios responding to the trademark claim. From King’s perspective the claim is a move on their part to protect their brand, but their goal is not to stop The Banner Saga. However, as King puts it, if they didn’t file the claim against The Banner Saga it would seemingly open up the floodgates.
Read their official, and extremely confusing, statement below:
“King has not and is not trying to stop Banner Saga from using its name. We do not have any concerns that Banner Saga is trying build on our brand or our content. However, like any prudent company, we need to take all appropriate steps to protect our IP, both now and in the future.”
“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 rights and causes player confusion. If we had not opposed Banner Saga’s trade mark application, it would be much easier for real copy cats to argue that their use of “Saga” was legitimate. This is an important issue for King because we already have a series of games where “Saga” is key to the brand which our players associate with a King game; Candy Crush Saga, Bubble Witch Saga, Pet Rescue Saga, Farm Heroes Saga and so on. All of these titles have already faced substantive trademark and copyright issues with clones.”
To put it another way, King is going after The Banner Saga to prove a point to copycat publishers. They don’t mean to put an end to The Banner Saga, but they have to if it means saving face.
Unfortunately for Stoic, that means a trademark claim is on their record, and they will have to dispute said claim. If what King is saying is true then it sounds like the company won’t fight Stoic’s dispute, but Stoic still has to file one and pay the necessary legal fees.
Stoic has also issued an official statement to Polygon, which further emphasizes the confusing nature of this situation:
“Two years ago, the three of us at Stoic set out to make an epic viking game: The Banner Saga. We did, and people loved it, so we’re making another one. We won’t make a viking saga without the word Saga, and we don’t appreciate anyone telling us we can’t. King.com claims they’re not attempting to prevent us from using The Banner Saga, and yet their legal opposition to our trademark filing remains. We’re humbled by the outpouring of support and honored to have others stand with us for the right to their own Saga. We just want to make great games.”
While King’s desire to protect their brand makes sense — Candy Crush is, after all, one of the biggest moneymaking machines in the mobile market — they are approaching things from a skewed perspective. Not only will their pursuit of brand protection pull innocent bystanders into the fold, the associated legal fees with disputing the trademark claims will negatively impact a company’s profit. So although this recent news may have helped The Banner Saga generate sales – we highly recommend the game by the way – they will need that money to keep the name.
Moreover, Stoic is a small developer with, as they say, only a handful of employees. However, what if they were not small? What if The Banner Saga was an EA or an Activision product? Would King have filed the same trademark? Our gut tells us they wouldn’t, but it’s an interesting question to ponder.
As fans of Stoic Studios we hope this issue can be resolved quickly and without too much financial loss. And, of course, we’ll keep you posted on the story as it develops.
What do you make of this entire situation? Does it impact your feelings about Candy Crush and its developer?