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Candy Crush/Banner Saga: My Brief Two Cents
by Mona Ibrahim on 01/22/14 03:12:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

This seems to happen a lot in my industry, the game space. And while I love you all these knee-jerk witch hunts are a bit tiresome. So to get to the meat of the problem: Candy Crush Saga is still a fully operational, commercially successful game, and King, as its lawful publisher/developer, has a vested interest in protecting its IP portfolio to the extent required to prohibit infringement.

Likewise, The Banner Saga is a beautifully rendered and well-designed product that likewise has an interest in protecting its IP. In other words, I do not think there is a “bad guy” here. We simply have two players in the IP landscape. Being on “Team Candy” or “Team Banner” does not make you any more or any less “legit” from a legal perspective.

With that being said, we have an instinctive desire to protect “legitimate”, “independent”, and “serious” games over the “casual” game publishers in the market. This is all well and good if that’s what you want to champion, but the law doesn’t play favorites for the sake of your preferences. Nor should it.

It seems that there’s an uncomfortable trend of painting all cases of trademark and IP enforcement with the same brush. This is problematic for a number of reasons. First, it undermines and discourages those who may have a legitimate IP interest from protecting or even pursuing potential legal rights. A small developer who has come across many of these articles whereby the distinctions in the underlying content in each game are pointed out when we’re discussing Trademark protection could come to some very erroneous presumptions.

To put a finer point on it…

For example, if one were to read this article by Kotaku, one might assume that the style of game play and game mechanics have more to do with a Trademark analysis than such factors actually do. But think of this from the perspective of a TTAB (Trademark Trial and Appeal Board) Judge who very likely does NOT play video games: in front of him he has two parties, one who has a series of marks using the phrase “saga” in Class 009 video game products (along with whatever market data/specimens King has attached to its opposition), and the other who has recently applied for a mark in the same class for the same type of good that also uses the word “saga”.

“Ah!” you might say, feeling particularly savvy and confident after reviewing a few articles on trademark protection, “Isn’t Saga a descriptive use?” But I’m sure the people over at Namco/Bandai, who have vigorously protected the “Tales” brand for decades, would have a thing or two to say about that. And so would their fans. There is a (albeit hazy) threshold when a distinctive word acquires “secondary meaning” for Trademark purposes. When the consumer base associates “Saga” with the brand over the textbook definition, you’ve pretty much hit that point.

So it’s not clear cut. And it’s hard to say who has the stronger legal position, which is why people settle. The problem is this whole tendency to vilify one party or another simply because they hope to enforce their valid interests, and that’s something I can’t get behind.

This leads to the second problem—we muddy the waters of the developer landscape when we pursue these “witch hunts”. We pit long-standing, hard-working enterprises who have built up their businesses to where they are today against independent developers as if they haven’t ALL stood on the same starting line. And this seems to be in egregiously poor taste from my perspective.

Cleaning the Flotsam

While I hate necromancing this name again, Tim Langdell does NOT set the status quo in Trademark enforcement, I can promise you. The problems with the “Edge” marks were multitudinous and compounded by the fact that Langdell hadn’t actually released a game in some 20 years. This ultimately led to the mark’s abandonment and cancellation, a decision I wholly support.

In truth, this probably does have a bit more in common with the Scrolls debate. It certainly seems to share the same amount of back-biting and pointless industry in-fighting, which gets back to my main point. Whether you’re Zenimax, King, Majong, or Stoic, you’re all attempting to achieve the same goal: you want to make games that people want to play. To facilitate that process the government has granted you certain alienable rights in the form of intellectual property so that you may go forth and profit from your game-making ventures.

Jas Purewal of Gamer/Law has already provided enough background on this, so I’m not going to belabor the point. However, to make use of those intellectual property rights some enforcement measures must take place. That is because piracy isn’t the only threat to IP. Cloning, knock-offs, and sub-par products that act as pariahs to existing established brands have a way of making a mess of the marketplace. Unfortunately, under intellectual property law (excluding, in most cases, patents), if you do not a) use your IP and b) enforce your IP, you are in a position to lose that IP. Selective enforcement creates its own myriad of problems, so it is often better to take action on any and all potential claims.

Conclusion

There are certainly “bad actors” in the game space when it comes to IP enforcement. However, it seems counter-productive and, frankly, stupid, to call out every successful company every time it seeks to enforce its rights against a smaller developer. Chances are there’s no ill-will there. The company is doing exactly what it must do to protect its ability to create the games people want to play (even if you are not one of those people).

Sadly, it also tends to highlight a lack of education with regard to an area of the law that is by all accounts of singular and vital importance to our industry. Keep that in mind the next time you’re compelled to face-roll a response like “LOL their lawyers are so stupid, those games look nothing alike!” The people who are actually paid to make these decisions probably aren’t laughing with you, they’re laughing at you.             

                


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Comments


Robert Crouch
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I think the scorn doesn't come from the fact that the larger company protects its trademark from a smaller company.

It's that when they do this, they often do it in a blanket fashion, and it ends up hurting some actors who are not actually infringing. However, because of the difference in size, the smaller company feels a financial burden which is caused by an act that is not actually seriously considered by the larger company.

The one thing you're right about though, is that no matter the outcome, the lawyers are laughing at you.

SD Marlow
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I understand your point about needing a better legal footing when going to court against a clear clone of your IP, but I think the drama is over the just "Candy" aspect rather than "Candy Crush." Can you imagine George Lucas getting a tight grip on the word "Star" for anything space of sci-fi related? What you point out only highlights that the system is broken at both ends: trademark of a common word and lack of protection/standing for actual content.

It's common for games to have a domain name, such as killthemoongame.com or ticklepuppy.com, but if I had a book titled red face, and a site called redfacebook.com, then facebook lawyers would be all up in my nether region about it, and would have legal standing in court. If someone makes a Mario Cart style game in a, I don't know, maybe a candy-landish setting, and perhaps has the word candy in the games title, will lawyers from King jump all over them? The line between defensive usage and offensive usage is subjective at times, but the courts should decide that, not King.

Javier Degirolmo
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In my understanding, getting a trademark for the word "star" for sci-fi stuff is not possible (because there's a relation), but getting a trademark for the word "star" related to movies *is* (OK, maybe not due to a different use of the word star which references to actors themselves, but you get my point).

Lars Doucet
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Everyone should really read this Reddit AMA Mona is doing on the topic, to really get down to the nitty gritty:
http://www.reddit.com/r/Games/comments/1vvvkh/the_great_tm_saga_a
ma_with_monaibrahim_game/

Wes Jurica
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I'll let all of you that are familiar with the legality of these sorts of things worry about that.

Regardless of whether it is legal, it would still be wrong for The Banner Saga to even have to worry about such things when it was announced before King even released Candy Crush Saga.

And another thing, it makes sense for people to be giving King the middle finger since they have much more money to fight these sorts of things than Stoic.

Michael Joseph
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"...from a legal perspective."


Obviously the people who are not arguing from a legal perspective are arguing from another perspective such as personal feelings of right and wrong.

So I don't see the point in trying to say they are wrong or don't know what they're talking about when it's you who are coming at this from a perspective that is different from theirs. These folks would be quick to concede that they are not arguing from a legal perspective. And it's not as if the law is the last word on matters of ethics and morality.

Candy Crush Saga & Banner Saga? Virtual nobodies compared to the peaceful co-existence of Mighty Mouse and Mickey. The legal system is a joke and attempting to own a word like "saga" is imo nothing more than gaming the game-able system.

Legality be damned, if a company isn't behaving the way someone likes, that someone can/will/should express their disapproval in any civil way they see fit including through their purchasing decisions.

Mona Ibrahim
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I mean... in my opinion it's kind of harsh to persecute King for being successful with yet another skinner box game, which is what we're really doing here. They made money, they hired lawyers to protect the aspects of their IP portfolio that require the most protection (namely, trademarks, because we all know it ain't content and game mechanics), and they filed a notice of opposition because they, too, have multiple marks using the word word "saga" in video games.

So making a moral judgment because the game doesn't suit your taste is kind of... well, unethical, really. Or at least extremely disingenuous. And that's the vibe I'm getting from this entire debate. It's not David and Goliath. It's two developers, one with substantial commercial success, one with substantial critical success, but seeking to protect their rights. Stoic obviously saw value in the "The Banner Saga" mark, which is why they sought to register. And they clearly had the money to take that step, which I assume means they dumped the grand or so necessary into getting a screening/attorney TM registration opinion letter before going into this. So it's not like they went into the registration process without knowing the risks-- because frankly, that is definitely something I would've pointed out in my "whether you should register" report.

Basically, once you decide to register you should expect this to happen. I'm always more surprised when my clients don't get a notice of opposition, because, I mean, it's hard coming up with original names. So I often think they probably should.

Michael Joseph
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"they filed a notice of opposition because they, too, have multiple marks using the word word "saga" in video games"

Actually that makes a lot of sense. This is a good example of why it's not a problem of witch hunts. It's ignorance and misunderstandings (yes this means me!)... unless that is part of the defining nature of witch hunts. I always thought of witch hunts as using a false pretense to push a hidden agenda.

If King is simply worried that one day Stoic will come after them for use of the word "saga" then filing a notice of opposition for that reason I can bring myself to understand. If it's actually a reasonable thing to do I don't know. "Star Wars" is surely registered but there are lots of "______ Wars" out there. "Guild Wars" and Steve Jackson's "Car Wars" comes to mind but I don't know if they are registered trademarks.

Mona Ibrahim
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:D In my AMA I put out a potential conversation scenario between King.com and their in-house counsel:

http://www.reddit.com/r/Games/comments/1vvvkh/the_great_tm_saga_a
ma_with_monaibrahim_game/cew9vuk

Jakub Majewski
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Mona, Michael mentioned Mighty Mouse and Mickey Mouse. Would you care to explain to me why neither Disney nor... err, whoever made Mighty Mouse, did not deem it worthwhile to protect the word "Mouse" for their usage?

I believe that you are being disingenuous by zeroing in on those people who mention that King makes casual games. Of course people will mention that, and of course for many, that's one more reason to not like King. But that's not the point. Bethesda makes RPGs, they have a lot of fans - but they sure didn't make friends with the "Scrolls" thing. People were criticising them left, right and centre. If roles were reversed, and King were fighting off Stoic, people would be attacking Stoic. And yes, they'd still mention that King is a company that makes casual games - and in spite of it, they'd side with King.

This whole thing is inexcusable, and yes, there are most definitely bad guys here, and they are at King. It is absolutely beyond the pale to go around registering single words as trademarks - and that's what this comes down to. After all, had King registered "Candy Crush Saga", there would be no chance at all of legal complications for either side.

What King is doing is obviously legal, but it's most definitely not ethical.

nicolas mercier
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@Mona: Michael never judged King based on the game they published, he judged them based on an aggressive behaviour towards a weaker company.

Michael Mullins
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That's the crux of the sound and fury here. Consider Kotaku, its commentators, and us the ignorant masses (not derogatory, we're actually not attorneys or paralegals and are ignorant of the issues at work!). So...

- This has happened before (scrolls).
- It is going to happen again, probably with some kind of twist.
- It is now a on on-going news story of public interest and will certainly be picked up by game blog sites.
- The public is expressing moral outrage, especially over the perception that a much smaller company is having to both spend money to defend itself and possibly change something about their creation in the face of a bully.

Given those things, I would really like to see Mona extend that hypothetical conversation from the AMA. She describes the legal thing that needs to happen, but this is not necessarily the same as "wise". Is there any other method of resolving this other than objection in PTO filings? Could a PR person recognizing the above issues say "Umm" and raise her hand and seeing if there isn't another way besides filing an objection? Couldn't the company be contacted directly and arrange things such that both companies, recognizing that there are reasonable interests in not allowing a trademark dispute to happen, amend their respective marks and filings so that they don't step on each other's toes, and then congratulate each other on their respective success and look forward to seeing more? Are the legal risks really that large? And if you absolutely must take the legal actions that King is taking, why in God's green Earth can you not be apologetic about it from the get-go and co-issue a public release that's as full of 'sorrys' as the stereotypical apologetic British romantic lead.

SD Marlow
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So, because King has added Saga to the end title of a bunch of games, no one else is allowed to do so ever again? It bothers a lot of people that law is used to pre-emptively go after "the little guy" that can't afford to fight it out in court while also telling adults how dumb they are because we will be so confused by game titles sound so much alike.

Michael Mullins
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@SD Marlow: Taking a more philosophical tack, law is a bludgeon. It's a blunt weapon used to both help and hurt. It is not a guarantee of justice as it is an invention of flawed human beings all wit heir own interests and desires. Your only real guarantee even in a largely fair system is due process and the rule of law. When men become angels, you'll see a difference. Till then, it's a hell of a lot better than the alternative. Like way way better.

Michael Mullins
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TL;DR: Law is a bitch, but it sure beats beating people with a club.

Alan Boody
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@Jakub

I liked your comment. I do want to point to one thing:

"It is absolutely beyond pale to go around registering single words as trademarks.." - Jakub

Some people argue that Apple should have never been granted the mark "Apple." What these people don't realize is that the mark of "Apple," in relations to computers & technology is a perfect example of when a single use word being trademark is done properly and even ethically granted. Even though "Apple" is a mark in the music/publishing industry, which it was also a perfectly good example of when a trademark is properly granted, it didn't expand to computer technology.

It's the same with Nike and shoes. Amazon and online e-commerce stores.

These are actually fanciful trademarks.

"An arbitrary or fanciful mark is a mark that bears no logical relationship to the underlying product. For example, the words "Exxon," "Kodak," and "Apple" bear no inherent relationship to their underlying products (respectively, gasoline, cameras, or computers). Similarly, the Nike "swoosh" bears no inherent relationship to athletic shoes. Arbitrary or fanciful marks are inherently distinctive -- i.e. capable of identifying an underlying product -- and are given a high degree of protection." - Harvard.edu

http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/metaschool/fisher/domain/tm.htm

Lennard Feddersen
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"So making a moral judgment because the game doesn't suit your taste is kind of... "

I've yet to see that this is anyone's complaint. Nobody likes the fact that the legal system allows King to trademark a common English word. It's wrong, it should not have been allowed and, yeah, many of us don't make the kind of money King does to afford lawyers if we want to continue to make games.

It doesn't feel like justice it feels like a protection racket.

Wyatt Epp
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Frankly, I think they need to sit down, strap in, and shut up. When you say "Saga" as a bare word and you're talking about games, I mentally fix the capitalisation to "SaGa" anyway (maybe it's because I'm old enough to remember when Square was a company?).

Is there anything an ordinary person with no stake aside from disgust and scorn can do to help kill this for the both of them?

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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You could sign this petition: http://www.change.org/petitions/us-patent-and-trademark-office-do
-not-allow-king-to-trademark-the-words-candy-or-saga?share_id=KsL
qhigvLo&utm_campaign=share_button_action_box&utm_medium=facebook&
utm_source=share_petition

You can also do what I do: tweet about the issue and make blog posts (like yours right here :] ) to educate people. These sort of "soft strategies" are down played as meaningless in the eyes of the law, but think about it like this: The law is just the imaginary ruleset that we as a society make. As people become aware of problems (through petitions and blogging), you change or refine the underlying ethics of the society in a way that the law reacts to.

Pedro Fonseca
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I agree that King has the right and indeed should protect their brand, as I mentioned on another thread on the subject, I wholeheartedly agree that they should shot down blatant imitators such as the hypothetical clone "Sweet Destruction Legend", which uses none of the words but is very obviously a blatant copy.

And indeed, the "Tales of" series is a series, and I see no other way to interpret an RPG game called "Tales of Something" as anything but either part of the "Tales of" series or trying to maliciously use their success and recognition.

Also, the "Tales of" follows a naming convention where the product is named as such: [franchise]: [subtitle or subdescriptor]; as is the case of many other games. Oblivion or Skyrim aren't Oblivion and Skyrim, both are subtitles for The Elder Scrolls 4 and 5, respectively.

However, the games in question are Candy Crush Saga and The Banner Saga, not only the names don't even follow the same naming structure, but claiming the word "Saga" as being of utmost importance and that what defines their game name is a lie (and that goes for both of them, really).

In the former, the franchise name is really Candy Crush, which is their game's abridged name and is how everyone recognizes their game; one would expect the sequel to be called something like Candy Crush Saga 2, Candy Crush Epic or Candy Crush: something, not Naval Battles Saga. No one in their right mind would even think that maybe Naval Battles Saga is in any way, shape or form a sequel or even related to Candy Crush Saga.

That's just insane, even if it is legally acceptable, because it's a clear case of the law being bent into an arbitrary interpretation that benefits one individual's view or standing point, the trademark law was created to prevent Sweet Destruction Legend, not The Banner Saga.

And even if it's legal, the point stands that both games aren't of the same genre, which in the game world usually means a completely different segment, product type and audience, where The Banner Saga would have little to no benefit on associating their product with Candy Crush (they're not even on the same platform!).

Seriously, that'd be the same as if Nintendo sued Cthulhu Saves the World because Super Mario World.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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I mostly agree with you, but I slightly disagree with your stance on "Tales of" (since RPGs are generally story heavy, it is easy to imagine someone legitimately wanting to use "Tales of" as the beginning of their RPG's title with no ill-intent towards Namco).

I also disagree that "Saga" is not important to The Banner Saga. A quick search for the definition of Saga on Google returns "a long story of heroic achievement, esp. a medieval prose narrative in Old Norse or Old Icelandic.". The Wikipedia entry for The Banner Saga describes it as "a Viking-themed tactical role-playing video game". When I think "medieval; Old Norse, or Old Icelandic", I think vikings. I can not off the top of my head imagine a *more fitting* game for the word "Saga" to belong to, can you?

Candy Crush Saga is just... I mean, does that game even have a plot? What on earth is "Saga"-like about it?

Pedro Fonseca
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@Jeffrey Crenshaw
I'm not saying that the word "Saga" isn't important to The Banner Saga, just that it doesn't strike me as the defining brand/franchise name (same way it isn't for Candy Crush); Banner Saga's name is either "The Banner" in which this iteration is the Saga or the full "The Banner Saga", where a sequel would gain a number and/or subtitle.

And yes, I can see where you're coming from with Tales of series and upon further inspection, there are indeed numerous unrelated "Tales of" games. It was a lack of research and a poor argument on my part.

Thinking about it again, I guess the case is a bit of an orange to Candy Crush vs Banner Saga's apple; after all Namco never bothered too much on creating a true identity to the Tales of series other than "JRPGs named Tales of Something and with similar battle systems (at least as far as the first few entries, I stopped following after Eternia)", not even the logos look alike (unlike Final Fantasy) and the character designs vary quite a bit (as do concept artists).

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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Yeah... no. Sorry, but no. Also, poor taste with the lawyer elitism this article is dripping with, but I won't belabor that.

The author of this article has failed to understand the concerns of those that stand against King's actions. The best illustration of this comes from her later comment "it's kind of harsh to persecute King for being successful with yet another skinner box game, which is what we're really doing here." Many people were fine with King and Candy Crush until this trademark overreach, so that's clearly not the problem and is what is popularly known as a strawman. Of course, with the number of human beings there are in this world, I'm sure it is a statistical inevitability that *some* think that is the crux of the debate and argue from there, but I don't think it is a safe gambit to use these exceptions to dismiss concerns over our language vanishing into the ownership of the few who have the resources to do so as "knee-jerk witch hunts" on a site visited by creative professionals in the field. In doing so, you (and frankly several others over this saga) are perpetuating bad feelings between creatives and lawyers.

"has a vested interest in protecting its IP portfolio to the extent required to prohibit infringement."

Then they should trademark "Candy Crush" and "Candy Crush Saga", if they haven't already. Trademarking "Candy" and "Saga" is a greedy overreach. (http://kotaku.com/candy-crush-makers-say-theyre-going-after-copyc
ats-no-1506469218 -- "King does not own trademarks to "candy" or "saga" (by themselves) yet but has applied for them").

"It seems that there’s an uncomfortable trend of painting all cases of trademark and IP enforcement with the same brush."

Why does it seem this way? If this hypothesis was true, then there would be dozens of articles a week about the various trademark applications that game companies apply for. But this type of retaliation comes once in a blue moon. Why is that? Could it be there is something about this trademark attempt that separates it from the herd in a way that is not accurately described as a broad stroke against "all cases of trademark and IP enforcement"? Of course! The issue is not with trademarking the name of a game, the issue is with trademarking *portions* of the name of a game in a way that severely limits other developers' titling options going forward!

" to call out every successful company every time it seeks to enforce its rights against a smaller developer"

Again, who is doing this? There seems to be some paranoia on the author's part that combats what I will admit is paranoia on the developers' part (the camp I reside in). I think we all need to sit down and understand the boundaries we are running into, including the lawyers that point out what little the developers understand without doing some introspection regarding their own ignorance and empathizing to see things from the point of view of a creative who has to pick a sequence of words to market their game with from an ever-growing minefield.

Look at it this way. If we are able to trademark and "own" single words in a manner that such words can't be used *even in conjunction with other words*, then how quickly will the scarce resource of "titles we are legally allowed to give our games" run out? Keep in mind that, According to uspto.gov, a trademark can be indefinitely extended:

"How long does a trademark registration last?
The registration is valid as long as you timely file all post registration maintenance documents. You must file a “Declaration of Use under Section 8” between the fifth and sixth year following registration. In addition, you must file a combined “Declaration of Use and Application for Renewal under Sections 8 and 9” between the ninth and tenth year after registration, and every 10 years thereafter. If these documents are not timely filed, your registration will be cancelled and cannot be revived or reinstated. For more information see Maintain/Renew a Registration."

Of course, you will probably have to re-release your game every so often to keep the mark relevant, but the point is that if we allow this type of thinking to go through (trademarking single word portions of a game title instead of the full title), then it is not difficult to lock down portions of the English language for long durations.

It's hard to count for certainty as there are many ways of doing so, but let us consider the number of words in the English language. One popular way to do this is to use the number of words in the Oxford English dictionary, which is just over 170,000. Of course, the pareto principle predicts that 20% of those words will make up 80% of useful conversation. The dictionary contains words such as "war", that can easily be put into the title of a game, but also words such as "pneumotachograph", which have less of a "potential space" of games that it can reasonably refer to. I would say that the vast majority of games will grab their titles from a very small subset, say 50,000, of those words, the rest being obscure or highly contextual (such as medical terminology), but that's just a WAG regarding the actual pareto parameters.

It's even harder to count the number of games that have been made, but I think it is safe to say that thousands are released each year. This seems to verify it (chart constructed from mobygames data): http://venturebeat.com/2010/04/08/the-death-of-the-video-game-exp
ert/. For the past ten years or so, over 2000 games have been released (again, according to MobyGames) each year. I believe it would be a conservative estimate to extrapolate "only" 2000 games a year going forward, as MobyGames does not list every game made, and game development output has been rising.

The final variable we need to consider is the average number of words in a game's title. If games had one word titles, it would take 85 years to exhaust all possible game titles constructed from English (170,000 words / 2000 games per year). I don't know how long the average game title is, but I feel that an average of two words is a conservative estimate. So if 2000 games are released a year, and have an average title length of 2 words, then 4000 words are needed per year to title all games released that year. If everyone trademarks both words in their title and protects them aggressively, then that is 4000 out of our limit of 170,000 words a year gone (and the "good" ones will be gone first). This will take 42.5 years before we have exhausted the Oxford English Dictionary. Conversely, if everyone trademarks the *full title* of their game, there are 170,000x170,000 such titles we can construct, which should give us a good 14 *million* years worth of titles to select for our games while still providing reasonable protection against seedy actors trying to get rich quick off of the good will developed by others.

I believe it is this later "full-title" reasoning that trademark law was meant to apply to, and I fully support it. But I think it is missing the point to dismiss as a "witch hunt" concerns over what seems to be a push to move to the former "partial-title" reasoning, which I hope I demonstrated with simple math (even if the numbers can be disputed) will exhaust our titling options far too quickly and thus be a detriment to all but the lucky few who rob us of the English language early on.

Paul Laroquod
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Oh, for cripes sake. It's not that people don't understand all the finer points of the law - it's that following the finer points of the law (especially as practised by extremely overinterpretive patent courts) results in an insane result.

Stop replying to people who are pointing out the insane results of IP law as if they don't understand the law. Stop pretending as if the law is the ultimate arbiter of morality. Stop playing ball with a system that has absolutely no interest in playing ball with you.

In a sane culture that understands where innovation actually comes from, there is no sensible argument to be made that people should be able to claim monopolies over common words like 'Candy' and 'Saga'. For people to disregard whatever some litigant or patent court claims the law allows in terms of granting monopolies over common words, is healthy and just: for the same reason that one ignores the babble of idiots.

It does not make your understanding superior to substitute the law for your morality -- it simply reveals your thinking as authoritarian and literally paper-thin.

Rui Mota
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Exactly.
This "there is no bad/ good guy grayish" articles keep popping from lawyers... The law that even allows to trademark a common word is fundamentally wrong. That should be the core of the discussion.

Paul Laroquod
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And the same goes for 'Tales of'! What a terrible example - as if people should be able to get a monopoly over games called 'Tales of'? Maybe I should apply for a patent on stories called 'The Story of'...

To see people defending this is solid evidence of a kind of mass insanity.

Paul Laroquod
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s/patent/trademark/

Adam Merkel
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I think it's just good taste in general not to register trademarks and names. In fact I'd go as far as saying that someone copying your game idea or makes a clone in an attempt to leech off your success (or as a sort of fangame) means you've made it. You can spread awareness about a blatant clone of your game, although do you really want people gullible enough to fall for a lousy clone? (Well, the corporate consensus does, that's for sure)

Alan Boody
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Mona,

Even though what King is doing is legal -no one is arguing against this- they are clearly the 'bad guys' here. Plus, I think you're alluding to the fact that King uses an obviously unethical monetization model (not the fact that it's a casual game) for why some don't like them. King is the prime example of a company that is what's wrong with our society today.

Just because they are operating within legal limits does not mean what they're doing is ethical. So, it is on this ground that people speak up. Now, apologists such as yourself come along and say "there is no bad guy here," but there clearly is a bad guy here when you look at this from an ethical point of view.

King could easily protect their IP simply with "Candy Crush Saga." However, there is obviously added value if they could gain control of marks like "candy" or "saga." In fact, they could better fight 'clones' -which they are supposedly doing- with the mark "Candy Crush Saga" than they could with just "candy" or "saga." For example, in the hypothetical name "Sweet Destruction Legend" that Pedro uses he is clearly illustrating that "Candy Crush Saga" does a FAR BETTER JOB protecting the IP than a blanket marks like "candy" or "saga."

These are marks that have been used in numerous game totals WELL BEFORE King ever came on the scene. Stoic is following a well established pattern of games that are PROPERLY the using the word "saga" in their title: "The Star Wars Saga," "Saga Frontier," and MANY other examples.

There's examples of video games with "candy" in their titles too.

In fact, if you think about it, the use of mark "The Banner Saga" -as in the way Stoic is using as the title for the product- makes illegitimate any claim that King has to the mark "saga." The reason why King is fighting this because they know that "The Banner Saga" mark is a threat to them monopolizing a commonly used term in titles of work dating back hundreds of years. King has absolutely NO RIGHT to have a mark for "saga." Although, "candy" is a little less established in video games than "saga," even this mark shouldn't be granted to anyone as a 'stand alone' mark.

Now, how about the language in the opposition to "The Banner Saga?" It completely contradicts what King is has in other areas. It uses terms like "deceptive" to describe "The Banner Saga" mark. Completely dishonest. No one in their right mind would ever confuse "The Banner Saga" for any games made by King. It was a completely dishonest and misrepresented work of fiction by lawyers meant to confuse and delay.

From an ethical standpoint, I'm sorry to say Mona, your attempt at making this out to be two honest parties being caught up in a net is borderline deceptive itself. There's a clear aggressor here that is using the law in an unethical way.

Alan Boody
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Let's look at this from another angle. First, as per each developers' description of their own game:

The Banner Saga:

"Live through an epic role-playing Viking saga where your strategic choices directly affect your personal journey. Make allies as you travel with your caravan across this stunning yet harsh landscape. Carefully choose those who will help fight a new threat that jeopardizes an entire civilization. Every decision you make in travel, conversation and combat has a meaningful effect on the outcome as your story unfolds. Not everyone will survive, but they will be remembered." - Steam.com

Candy Crush Saga:

"Explore the sweet and colourful world of Candy Crush in this fun candy switcher, where you can mix and match sweets in a combination of three or more, to gain points and other bonuses as you progress! Start your game on Facebook or mobile and seamlessly continue your saga between platforms. Your game play will be fully synched across all devices." - CandyCrushSaga.com

Now, let's look at the definition of "saga":

Saga - "a long story of heroic achievement, especially a medieval prose narrative in Old Norse or Old Icelandic: "a figure strait out of a Viking saga" - OxfordDictionaries.com

CLEARLY, "saga" far better matches Stoic's game than it does any of King's titles. Where are the vikings in "Candy Crush?" Where is the Norse mythology in "Candy Crush?" Where is an epic story or 'saga' in "Candy Crush?" Or, for any of King's titles for that matter?

Someone above pointed to the mark for "tales," which actually has a good argument for why it should be a mark since they not only used in a recognizable way, "Tales of," but it was for games that actually had story and tales.

Then, on top of that, what makes this even more egregious is the fact that King's PR says they're not preventing Stoic from using the title "The Banner Saga," but then in their opposition they're mentioning that Stoic's application for the mark "The Banner Saga" is deceptive. They're contradictive.

I'm willing to bet that if no money was involved that King wouldn't be granted marks for "candy" or "saga," and "The Banner Saga" would be registered to Stoic; if the decisions were based 'purely' on the actual trademark laws.

Alan Boody
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Let's examine a definition of what a trademark is:

"A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination thereof, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others." - uspto.gov

If there was any company that I would associate a game -any game- with it would be Hasbro due to their game "Candy Land." In fact, I've owned a copy of "Candy Land" video game version of the board game for nearly 10 years that I bought for my kid. If ANYONE has any claim to the mark "candy" -even in a video game- it would be Hasbro.

The word "saga" could almost be considered a 'generic mark' for any title that has elements that depict "a long story of heroic achievement, especially a medieval prose narrative in Old Norse or Old Icelandic" (Oxforddictionaries.com). Guess what game could be considered utilizing "saga" in which the generic mark would apply to? "The Banner Saga."

People can plainly see this, even if they don't have a deep understanding of trademarks, and so what they're fighting against is the fact that King has a massive amount of resources that would allow them to simply steamroll Stoic. Not because they're being legit or ethical, but only because they can throw money at something to get what they want. They think they're a 'king', using a false flag (other clones) to try and unjustly gain control of marks "candy" and "saga" simply for the inherit value in the terms themselves and not their actual products. This is clearly obvious.

Alan Boody
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Sorry, needed to correct this: If there was any company that I would associate a game -any game- with that included "candy" in the title it would be Hasbro due to their game "Candy Land."*

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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I agree with this comment, except I don't think that Candy Crush clones are a "false flag" operation: I saw several games in the metacritic database released after CCS that had "Candy" and "Crush" wedged into their titles in an obvious attempt to divert search queries in the app store to their front door. With that said, I don't think that justifies King creating a time sink/chilling effect with trademark scatter-shooting, just like I don't think the US has a right to drone strike civilians in other countries and terrorize the ones they don't drone strike with drones flying overhead just because terrorists killed some of our civilians (and for anyone who thinks 9/11 was a false flag, let's just disagree and not get into that here; pick another example of retaliatory splash damage).

Alan Boody
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Well, at first, I would agree if King hadn't shown obvious examples of exploitative practices: like an unethical monetization model. Clearly, King has some pretty intelligent people that knew how to setup a money making machine. How could they not fail to see that the actual "Candy Crush Saga" mark would work far better in combating these other games than generic marks like "candy" and "saga?"

This leads me to believe that it is nothing more than PR that they just want to stop clones. Their action against "The Banner Saga," along with their lack of ethics in their monetization model, supports my argument here.

Now, I know that the 'false flag' term is generally used in relationship to issues in regard to military operations & propaganda, but my intentions here was to illustrate a point. It is strongly suggested that they're using the clones argument as a way to unjustly gain marks for "candy" and "saga."

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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"t is strongly suggested that they're using the clones argument as a way to unjustly gain marks for "candy" and "saga.""

That may be. It wouldn't surprise me. But I think for something to be a "false flag", it has to involve a proposed threat that does not exist. All I wanted to say here was that the copycat threat that King used *does* exist. Now with that said, it could be the case that they are using this threat to justify harming others. I believe this to be the case, though it is hard to tell if it is out of an evil disregard for others to have an opportunity to succeed like you did, or a legitimate ignorance. I don't think it matters, we simply must stand against it regardless of King's intents.

Alan Boody
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We're definitely in the same frame of thinking. I think our energies are better placed in focusing on the real issue: King over stepping their bounds.

Bradley OHearne
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"Legal" and "illegal" has long since left the realm of "right" and "wrong". The legal system isn't about justice anymore, it is about prevailing, and that is exactly what allows patent / trademark trolls a window to make a viable business out of stealing from others.

I could care less to debate what lawyers say. This isn't right -- and THAT is what the legal system ought to be subordinate to, not orchestrating wrong via having a larger purse than the opposition.

Michael Mullins
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Reiterating what I said earlier, it's never been otherwise. Also, who is the arbiter of what 'right' means?

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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"who is the arbiter of what 'right' means?"

Nobody, but that goes for any word. "Right", just like "moral" or even "blue" or "California", are simply letter sequences/phoneme sequences that have imaginary meanings that morph over time. Sometimes, we even agree slightly on their meanings. This is the best we can do to communicate ideas.

However, I personally prefer a system of "right" that protects the many from the few, and giving up the real estate of the English language to monied interests is going to do the opposite of that. From an amoral perspective, you can simply expect rationally self-interested agents that are paying attention to fight this: why let "another" person gain power that limits *me* in even the slightest? And of course from a more cooperative perspective, King does seem to be the bully in the playground, so the weaker kids (if they can gather the courage) will fight back. King's defeat regarding this trademark and the PR backlash from their overreach are inevitable. More subjectively, this is not just how I predict it, but how I want it to be.

Michael Mullins
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I expect greater irrationality than you do and have a dimmer view of humanity, but I get your general thrust that power is best wielded when balanced by other power.

David Canela
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I took an interest in IP law in law school and worked as a legal intern at the Swiss Institute of Intellectual Property, where one of the things I'd do was check trademark applications. It's been a while since then, I've forgotten many things and in some regards it feels like a different life, but that said, here's what I think:

While there's certainly lots of default rooting for the underdog in these cases, that doesn't change the fact that:

a) the "Saga" component of King's various trademarks is incredibly weak at least for any product categories that have some sort of story (books, movies, games...) and any half-decent IP lawyer knows that. This means their chances of success with their opposition of the "The Banner Saga" are very small and basically hinge on someone in the deciding body screwing up.

b) Considering King's war chest, it's a safe assumption that they have at least half-decent lawyers. So why did they still go ahead with that opposition? Either
1. decisionmakers at King have no clue and got tricked by lawyers just eager to rack up more billable hours or
2. they are aware of their undertaking's silliness (and I'm talking from a legal perspective, not even getting into the moral aspect of this) but thought, what the heck, we'll do it simply because we can, or worse
3. they know they are in the wrong yet count on small developers backing down out of fear of legal costs.

No matter which one of these it is, they're abusing the legal system in a pointless demonstration of sheer dickishness. So in this case, the people instinctively rooting for the underdog/small guy/indies here even if in complete ignorance of IP law are absolutely right to be mad at King (or at least the people at King responsible for this strategy).

Alan Boody
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Every opposing, authoritative view that I've seen has started with the same theme: "King has a right to protect their IP." Then, they attempt to portray King as simply being innocent here because they're trying to stop clones. However, they never address the fact that "The Banner Saga" is neither a clone nor even remotely trying to capitalize on Candy Crush Saga's success. Then, try to make the argument that King simply needs to file opposition to protect the "saga" mark.

First, like Mona above, they're all missing the point as they try to play middle ground here. Second, some of the stuff they're mentioning (or leaving out) is misleading in some ways.

They're purposely dodging the fact that the mark "Candy Crush Saga" can be far better used to combat other game titles that are trying to capitalize on it. They know PERFECTLY WELL that "candy" and "saga" can be marks that cast wide net and capture other developers, like Stoic, and know perfectly why these marks should not be granted to King.

However, for some reason, they want to continue the 'middle ground' road and be apologists to the obvious aggressor who is the wrong - both ethically and also by the actual trademark law itself.

The reality is that everyone fears this will become a 'game' of money - who ever has the most money will win in the end. So, a great developer with an honest title, Stoic in this case, could easily end up losing to a company that copycats other games along with other company's Candy idea (Candy Land) then think they can start pushing others around simply because they had the audacity to file a mark on words to use as terms they plan on 'carpet bombing' other developers -starting with the small indies- with.

David Serrano
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If you showed the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board Judge (who very likely does not play video games) a side by side comparison of Candy Crush and Bejeweled in their entirety, could he or she objectively rule that Candy Crush is a completely original or distinctly different product which on no level violates Pop Cap's copyright on Bejeweled? Very likely... no.

So allowing King to copyright any individual word in the title of "their" IP when their IP is in reality, a blatant ripped off of Pop Cap's IP makes absolutely no sense.

Andy Lundell
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>"Chances are there’s no ill-will there."
>"The people who are actually paid to make these decisions probably aren’t laughing with you, they’re laughing at you."

Perhaps you don't understand why people are unhappy about this?
Nobody is claiming there's ill will, and nobody doubts that the lawyers are laughing at us.

People are angry because it's perceived as a ridiculous abuse of process. I understand this might be difficult for a lawyer like Ibrahim to understand, but most non-lawyers believe that something can be a legal use of a process, but still abusive and wrong.

Alejandro Rodriguez
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Yes. We get it. They are within their legal rights to protect their brand. Yes, we get it. It's standard practice to shotgun opposition at ANY entity that MIGHT be committing some kind of offense and force them to litigate or settle to prove their valid use of a term that MIGHT be associated with an otherwise absurd trademark claim.

That doesn't make it okay. It looks like exactly what it is.

A common practice used to keep lawyers billing for busywork that amounts to a settlement in almost every case. In the off-chance that you manage to hit an ACTUAL clone that is trying to ape your beloved IP/TM, you've already hit so many bystanders that it doesn't matter whether you're doing things the way the 'industry' always has or not. The practice itself, considering how generally accepted it is as commonplace, accounts for nothing and protects only those with the resources to fight it at-length in any actual case that warrants real investigation and consideration.

It's ridiculous, it always has been, and it always will be. Legal or otherwise.

Kevin Fishburne
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@Mona. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like you're suggesting it's perfectly okay for all game developers to trademark whatever individual words in the titles of their games they feel important to protect, and that it's also perfectly okay for them to sue each other for trademark infringement any time one of these words is used in a game title whose studio doesn't own the trademark. It may be legal, but legal and right are two different things.

If so, that's analogous to what's happening with software patents at the moment. That war is widely criticized by most everyone (other than the patent holders) as being the absurd result of a broken U.S. patent system. Perhaps the same logic could be applied to trademarking a single word in a game title, then defending that trademark against games which, by any measure of common sense, are not in fact infringing.

Mona Ibrahim
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@Kevin, what I'm saying is, people are well within their rights to waste their hard earned (or VC funded) money however they like in seeking out TM applications, it doesn't mean they'll succeed. Ultimately the market determines whether a mark can be registered. Are you saying King.com shouldn't even be allowed to APPLY for these marks?

I guess that's what it comes down to, really. Would you rather the government tell you from the outset "You are absolutely not allowed to even attempt to register this!" or would you rather they let you give them your money so they can tell you no after a fair a reasonable assessment under some questionably clear parameters?

They took a shot gun approach to TM registration and maybe they'll strike gold, maybe they won't. Pretty much every VC funded company on the planet does this during the initial setup/housekeeping phase, so I'm not sure why everyone is acting like King.com suddenly reinvented the evil wheel. I have no idea how hard they'll fight if anyone files a notice of opposition to their 70+ unregistered but applied for marks. But I think freaking out at them just because they've applied for the marks is kind of crappy.

Mona Ibrahim
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This is a lot of feedback, and I'm thrilled that this has generated so much discourse. No, really.

Okay, I'm a little disappointed. And part of that is because I spent a solid 10 hours yesterday having a productive discourse on the AMA, and it seemed people were getting a better idea of the "process" you guys are disparaging.

So let me explain a "Notice of Opposition", because I do not think that word means what you think it means. Then I'll set out a few key facts. And that should clarify why I think people are going a bit overboard because something happened involving the law that people don't understand, when what happened is very much an ordinary course of doing business event.

Anyone with a remotely colorable interest in a trademark's registration can file a notice of opposition. This means that "The Banner Diner" in Omaha, NE (I'm sticking to Omaha, Dan), with no marks applied for or registered with the USPTO, can just as easily file a notice of opposition with the TTAB for The Banner Saga's registration. Many applications receive multiple notices of oppositions, some not at all. It is literally a crap shoot, and here's why:

Many companies with developed IP/TM portfolios hire third party services or enlist their own in house counsel to monitor USPTO applications ready for publication that may conflict with their own applications or existing marks. This is a cost of doing business in IP, and I know you all think it's evil and detestable, but the government leaves it up to IP owners to protect their own rights. This is the system in place to preserve those rights. So obviously, due to the sheer volume of applications, many are missed, and obviously these monitoring firms are going to employ the internet and keywords to ensure the applications they're going after are actual goods that can compete against their client's market share. Which is probably how The Banner Saga came up at all.

From my last review King.Com Limited has applied for approximately 83 trademarks relating to their various products, and yes, of these 83 registrations, one is for the word mark "Saga" and one is for the word mark "Candy". They've also got "Sweet!" and few other ridiculous ones in there. They also have some beautiful designed logos, and obviously the full titles of the games themselves. Of these, only about 3-4 are actually registered. I don't have the bandwidth to determine how far along in the application process the rest of these marks are, and I don't actually care. The point is, at this point, any one of the remaining 70+ TM applications can be blocked by a notice of opposition, or worse, at the earlier stages of review by the USPTO reviewing attorney. A reviewing attorney will block an application from the word "go" if it conflicts with an existing registered mark, or another mark that's applied for, especially if that mark is further along in the application process.

And I'm going to be honest here, USPTO reviewing attorneys are capable of making some truly remarkably stupid decisions. Or maybe it's not stupidity, maybe it's just laziness, but they will set aside whole blocks of applications because of a similar word here or there in the same class of goods sold. And the monitoring companies know this, so they are even MORE paranoid when conducting their screenings. And so when an application, the successful registration of which could potentially bar a company's ability to register their own marks, pops up, they include that in their report with a recommendation to file a notice of opposition.

In house counsel takes that report and typically drafts an opinion letter, or has outside TM counsel draft an opinion letter, on whether to take action against the marks raised in the report. And because filing a notice of opposition is cheap and easy to do, for many larger firms it's practically an automated process.

A "Notice of Opposition" is not a lawsuit. The costs alone aren't even comparable. And receiving a "Notice of Opposition" after seeking registration should NEVER be unexpected if the person seeking registration has done their homework after investing how many hundreds or thousands they invested in developing their IP portfolio, no matter how large or small. Publication to the principal register is the government's way of saying "If any oppose the joining of this Company and this Trademark, speak now or forever hold your peace." Except it's not forever, because there's petition of cancellation, too.

Is this a good thing? Probably not. There probably should be a bit more discussion with regard to what marks to pursue. But it's difficult to balance the legal issue itself from a policy stand point-- if we set the bar higher for filing a notice of opposition, then ONLY the King.com's could file them and companies like Stoic or The Banner Diner wouldn't be able to make the same move. So it's the same ease of entry that let's the little guy play, but ultimately gives the big repeat player more leverage and power. It's not a fair system.

And from a PR/Consumer morals perspective, I can see that many people would be pretty disgusted with the way this business operates, because it is messy. But the decision to register is also a choice, one that Stoic made, and it's a good one, because it's clear their brand has value. It also sets them up to oppose the registrations of any of the "Saga" related applications by King.com currently on file with the USPTO. And as Saga mark hasn't even been published for opposition yet, that's easily a course of action they can take, should they elect to do so.

HOPEFULLY Stoic will have a stronger sense of business judgment, and will align its interests with King in a manner that's mutually beneficial to protecting both parties. I'm sure King's counsel has advised the company that the shotgun approach to TM registration is very much a "throw everything at the wall and see what sticks" approach, and one that isn't particularly effective, but sometimes you get a golden egg. Unfortunately those are also the marks most easily challenged in the future, as I'm sure we'll see a great deal of.

As a point of reference-- use the USPTO basic search option to look up the company name of one of your favorite publishers, and see how many thousands of unregistered/abandoned applications exist. Now compare that number to the actual number of games released, and actually take a look at some of the registrations. The USPTO is inundated with this kind of thing, it really has became a pretty standard business practice, and while it has reached a level of absurdity, it's what happens when you reach critical mass.

I don't even know where I'm going with this anymore, actually...

nicolas mercier
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I will just quote you on this:

"From my last review King.Com Limited has applied for approximately 83 trademarks relating to their various products, and yes, of these 83 registrations, one is for the word mark "Saga" and one is for the word mark "Candy". They've also got "Sweet!" and few other ridiculous ones in there."

I am not a lawyer, I am a programmer in video games. If someday I say to my boss, "I tried approximately 83 algorithms to fix the issue, and, out of this 83 algorithms, one involved killing kittens and one involved sending random insults to people on the internet, I've also got one to blow up people's hard drives and other ridiculous ones in there", I'm pretty sure I'm fired.

After reading your comment, the logic still isn't clear, why anybody (including people who know the law) should feel any sympathy for a company registering ridiculous trademarks, and trying to prevent a single company registering a single trademark (and a non-ridiculous one).

Let me make that even clearer: you just told me that King tried to register ridiculous trademarks (really, your words) which I already can't bear, and then opposed some (not what you said, what I say now) NOT SO ridiculous trademark. Does not compute to the programmer I am, and I am actually finding it difficult to understand how you are trying to defend it.

And because I want to be captain obvious, we're comparing a company trying to trademark 83 names including ridiculous ones, in a VERY broad field including electronics and headphones and derived products (checked the notice of opposition, trhe goods and service part of all they trademarks), against a company registering ONE trademark (the name of their video game) in exactly ONE field (video games). And you still say that Stoic should have a stronger sense of business judgement.

Mona Ibrahim
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It's more like a land grab. King.com has a piece of property that tangentially and sometimes directly connects to several other kinds of property. Some are arable/habitable/worth the money spent, but much will be abandoned. That's why you see company listings with hundreds of "Abandoned" marks when you do a USPTO registration review-- those marks or applications were either abandoned or cancelled because the USPTO said no or someone else came in and cancelled the mark. The programming analogy doesn't really work because apart from some nominal financial loss for a company with that revenue, there's nothing that penalizes them from applying. A faulty algorithm could be fatal to a program, but abandoning a mark you've only really sunk $275 in when you're AGR is $1m a month isn't a big deal.

There is also nothing stopping them from not applying at all, but claiming the same TM rights under common law trade mark.

A notice of opposition is not a bar on registration, nor does it preclude Stoic from also filing a notice of opposition when the Saga mark comes up for publication, if ever. King.com will likely withdraw the opposition after negotiating with Stoic, because at this point King will probably do everything it can to save face.

If linguistics and semantics were as straightforward as programming (and I realize programming is by no means straightforward, but in the grand scheme of things) we might be able to come up with a comparable analogy, but how human psychology relates to words and phrases and products is a very complex and absurd creature. I mean at the end of the day it's weird that words like Xerox, Kleenex, and Supercalafragelisticexpialedocious exist in our vernacular, but they DO. Language is pretty ridiculous. And TM law is BASED on human language, every language, as well as designs, logos... So yes, things are going to be very absurd, because people will always try to trademark some crazy a** *hit. I don't really think that makes them bad people, they've just made some interesting life choices.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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"A faulty algorithm could be fatal to a program,"

Hey, another programmer here.

A "faulty" algorithm will presumably be weeded out by local developer testing before it is committed to the shared code base of the repository. I'm fairly certain this is what Nicolas meant with "I tried approximately 83 algorithms to fix the issue", telling his boss instead of his boss finding out from the QA department filing a lot of bug reports (which is what would happen if the developer just kept checking in faulty untested algorithms). So to keep the analogy pertinent, the cost is the paid manhours of the developer, which is the same for the lawyer. At this point we would be quibbling over how much lawyers get paid per hour versus programmers, how much time it takes to apply for a trademark versus implementing an algorithm, etc. Nicolas's main point is that it is a bit shocking to see a field where the "experts" have such a wide margin of acceptable failure, which is a POV I share. But I'm not sure if this margin of failure is really this big on average or if King is just one of a handful of over-eager companies.

Most importantly, this margin of failure is not just a risk taken by King, but an action that many others will have to pay for. To be blunt, even just filing a Notice of Opposition takes time (as does monitoring the USPTO website to even be aware that an NoO is needed). But suppose no one mans up to do that and this causes King to get more marks than would otherwise happen. The more marks King is awarded, the more companies in the future will have to deal with C&Ds. This is time that must be spent beyond the natural needs of developing your product to please your customers and make the world a more enjoyable place just because some person somewhere else who you have no control over made certain actions in a legal system created before you were born.

Of course some of this is unavoidable -- if I want to release a game called "An Awesome Game" and another company does it a week ahead of me with no ill intentions from either of us, there is no "easy" answer to who ethically ought to be able to call their game that (or if both should be allowed), and I suppose our current trademark system is "good enough" considering how unlikely this scenario is. But I believe that these issues work fine without the shotgun approach; that is, honestly limiting your applications to the literal name of your game and logo without trying to claim individual words. The shotgun approach might be a nice easy way for King's lawyers to make it look like they are doing more work but it causes the rest of us to have to put forth time cleaning up their inaccuracy. In other words, when lawyers get lazy, the rest of us have to pay for it with our time, and it would just be healthier for the game industry's output (and developers' sanity) if lawyers were a little more honest about what they can and should attempt to get trademarked. And to make it absolutely clear, I am 100% *for* company and product trademarks (when implemented in good faith); if you want to rub me really raw, let's talk software patents ;).

I'm not that worried, the PR backlash will affect King, and the pressure should travel through the system to the lawyers to, ah, "encourage" them to be a little more considerate for others going forward. I hope...

Mona Ibrahim
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Oh and for future comments, just head over to the reddit AMA, it's easier if I can tackle everything in one place:

http://redd.it/1vvvkh

Patrick Sweeney
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My $.02 (and that may be all it's worth): You can't look at this from an ethical perspective. King is attempting to protect its brand and is doing so within the current system. That system can decide if they've gone too far. And the earlier comment about not protecting your IP and being flattered when someone copies you....that's not a business model...that's a hobby. It may seem inconceivable to protect "candy" in a certain class, but the alternative is having Candy Blast and Candy Cataclysm and Candy Smash all come out and undermine King's hard work on Candy Crush. That brand and franchise employs many good people who could be out of a job based on these clones. Is King overly aggressive in its land grab? Yes. Because they have to be. The cloners are not exactly acting honorably. So King has its first line of defense farther out than we think is right. That's their business decision. And based on the potential consequences, I don't blame them?

Mona Ibrahim
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"And you still say that Stoic should have a stronger sense of business judgement."

Just on this point, and then I think I'm stepping away from this topic for the foreseeable future.

Striving for better business judgment in this case really shouldn't be much of a stretch.

And this is it, I'm out. :)

Craig Jensen
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Saga...A normal word being copyrighted or trademarked or patented. I am with Michael Joseph (I liked your post!). This is morally wrong and we should feel outraged. This is just more evidence that the legal system is broken. Arguing that legally King has the right to blah blah blah is only more evidence that the current legal system is broken.

Calvin Lindfors
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Just a quick correction, the developer of Scrolls is Mojang, not Majong. Mahjong is a totally unrelated board game from medieval China.


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