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King's CEO: 'Our policy is to protect our IP and to also respect the IP of others'
King's CEO: 'Our policy is to protect our IP and to also respect the IP of others'
January 27, 2014 | By Christian Nutt

January 27, 2014 | By Christian Nutt
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    21 comments
More: Social/Online, Smartphone/Tablet, Business/Marketing



"At its simplest, our policy is to protect our IP and to also respect the IP of others."
- King CEO, Riccardo Zacconi, in an open letter on the developer's website.

Stockholm-based social game studio King has caught a lot of heat lately. The Candy Crush Saga developer has aggressively pursued its IP rights while accusations of cloning arose around a King game called Pac-Avoid -- an alleged clone of another studio's Scamperghost.

In an open letter posted to the company's website, Zacconi takes a hard line against the view that it is too aggressive on trademark protection, saying that the company needs to protect itself from other developers unfairly capitalizing on the outsize success of its games.

"Not surprisingly, some developers have seen an opportunity to take advantage of [Candy Crush Saga's] popularity, and have published games with similar sounding titles and similar looking graphics. We believe it is right and reasonable to defend ourselves from such copycats," Zacconi writes.

Of being a copycat itself, however, Zacconi is more contrite. Writes Zacconi, "... the bottom line is that we should never have published Pac-Avoid. We have taken the game down from our site, and we apologize for having published it in the first place."

Things get murkier when it comes to The Banner Saga -- King is opposing developer Stoic's trademark to the game's title, as it uses "saga" as a brand for its line of popular puzzle games. King has said it intends to allow the developer to use the word "saga" in its' games' titles, but Zacconi clearly states that the company continues to oppose Stoic's trademark.

"We're not trying to stop Stoic from using the word Saga but we had to oppose their application to preserve our own ability to protect our own games. Otherwise, it would be much easier for future copycats to argue that use of the word 'Saga' when related to games, was fair play," the CEO writes.

For more, you can read the whole letter, entitled "Our approach to IP." Confused about how the trademark system? Two lawyers have posted informative blogs on Gamasutra: Jas Purewal explains the basics and Mona Ibrahim discusses how and why these things happen.


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Comments


Josh Neff
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"At its simplest, our policy is to protect our IP and to also respect the IP of others." - Actions speak louder than words...and well, that whole "respect the IP of others" part King ltd claims to do... Yeah, not so much.

Point blank: I'll NEVER work for/with or buy a King LTD product due to their unwarranted carpet-bomb-bullying of other companies. There is NO excuse for it. Simply unacceptable.

*on edit* With King ltd practicing this kind of bullying, I can't imagine the kinds of BS its employees have to put up with.

David Konkol
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If this was 10 years ago, people might believe when corporations said this. But in the day and age of businesses saying anything to protect their bottom line, it becomes harder and harder to think they are sincere when they say things like this.

Don't believe the hype. I hope the fans of Candy Crush Saga (if I dont get sued for saying their name on the internet), hear about this underhanded practice and think twice about playing their games.

Adam Merkel
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I wouldn't consider the open letter as being enough. King needs to investigate the legal team or law firm that was able to push their trademark registrations until they passed - Being able to register single common words as Saga or Candy should have been more than a red flag. I have a hunch that there is quite the seedy underbelly to be exposed, especially if who handled those registrations is one of those massive law firms that's made itself "invincible" through legal power and financial gains.

Stephen Horn
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There wouldn't be much to investigate, would there?
President of King ltd.: "So, who decided to go after the trademarks for 'Candy' and 'Saga'?"
Head Lawyer: "I can take credit for that."
President of King ltd.: "Excellent. Here's a bonus paycheck for 1.21 gigadollars. Keep up the good work."
Head Lawyer: "Thank you, sir! Will do! Would it be okay if we also trademarked 'Crush'?"
President of King ltd.: "You can do that?! Fantastic! Make it so, and I'll pay out another 1.21 gigadollars. That's why I like you, kid. You're my kind of ideas person."

SD Marlow
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So, copyright Saga but not to use against everyone, except that they HAVE to use it against everyone or REAL copy cats will beat them in court? They climbed over others to reach the top and now don't want anyone trying to climb up on them?

Kenneth Blaney
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Actually, that is how it works. If you don't defend your trademark, you might lose it.

King: Copycat Games clearly is using our trademark in their new title.
Judge: Copycat, it seems fairly similar why did you think you could do this in good faith?
Copycat: King didn't defend its trademark against Stoic, thus we assumed it was no longer actively registered and being used.
Judge: King's claim is without merit. Copycat may continue to use the material.

This exact thing happened in all of these cases in the US:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_generic_and_genericized_trad
emarks

Daniel Borgmann
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No, that's not what happened to the trademarks on that list. What happened to those trademarks is that they became generic terms for a product. That's a very different issue.

Some[1] say that the whole idea that companies have to tirelessly defend their trademark to maintain any legal claim is a myth that only serves to fill lawyer pockets, and I have yet to see a convincing refutation for that.

[1] https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/11/trademark-law-does-not-require-comp anies-tirelessly-censor-internet

Amir Barak
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Except that trademarks have nothing to do with content but are concerned with brand. You're confusing copyright and trademark.

There is no King is that conversation; only Copycat_0 and Copycat_1.

King's claims on 'Saga' in relation to 'The Banner Saga' is not only laughable but pathetic. And their attempt to put down the fires by firing off vapid statements of assurances are even more pathetic than their games.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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@Kenneth In what other property context does this type of logic work?

"Homeowner: This person clearly entered my house intending to steal some of my food.
Judge: Thief, what do you have to say for your actions?
Thief: The homeowner didn't do anything when their parents came to visit unexpected and ate some of their food, so we assumed they were no longer actively interested in protecting the right to their physical property (food).
Judge: The homeowner's claim is without merit. Anyone can take food from them going forward."

Either this does not actually happen in the real world (as Daniel hinted at and as I suspect, it is a wive's tale propagated by lawyers to make their positions more precious, or by armchair lawyers misunderstanding generification as some overnight process), in which case this myth needs to be stopped. Or this *does* happen in the real world, in which case our legal system needs a hefty dose of common sense.

Kenneth Blaney
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Didn't see this until late, but on the off chance that you see this:

@Jeffrey There actually IS a statute surrounding this called "Adverse Possession".

@Daniel Although I don't doubt that this might be the case and some laws exist to keep lawyers in business, the reason many of those became generic was through failing to defend their trademarks (or willfully abandoning them). Can it get out of hand? Surely. This is proof. But some defense of your trademark really is required (according to any lawyer I've ever paid and even some I haven't).

Daniel Borgmann
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So let me get this straight... If they claim they respect the IP of others, I assume that they are not opposed to Stoic actually protecting their own IP by registering the trademark. So how does that work exactly, do they just need to have their opposition on record, but Stoic is then free to proceed to register the trademark?

If Stoic would still be unable to register the trademark due to these shenanigans, then this letter would be nothing but a smokescreen and the author a douchebag of massive proportions. But I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt...

I still do have other issues with this though. I understand that to some extend apps like "Candy Slot" may be riding on the success of the candy theme. But if we essentially allow themes to be trademarked, then we'll end up without a lot of options very soon. King wasn't the first to use the candy theme and they should not be the last simply because they have some success right now.

The "player confusion" argument is very weak, players aren't more likely to confuse one candy game for another than they are to confuse one zombie game for another. As long as the likeness wasn't clearly ripped-off, this should not be an issue.

As for "capitalising on our success", I would argue that King has capitalised a million times more on the success of Bejeweled by copying the game mechanic (which cannot realistically be protected), than anybody using the candy theme (let alone the term "Saga") capitalises on the success of King. There is no moral case here.

I am all for developers protecting their IP, but this means unique creations. Not common themes which they just happened to make popular.

Michael Thornberg
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The sad part here is that they filed for 'candy crush saga' twice themselves (they don't have a valid trademark for it yet):

CANDY CRUSH SAGA Filed on: 6/21/2013 #85966584 (status: NON-FINAL ACTION - MAILED
11/2/2013)

and

CANDY CRUSH SAGA Filed on: 3/12/2012 #85566839 (status: OPPOSITION PENDING
7/18/2013)

Notice the late date of filing for the second one.
The Stoic guys should absolutely file another claim.

Nuttachai Tipprasert
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AFAIK, King's 'Saga' trademark hasn't yet granted. I only heard that US trademark office already approved their 'Candy' trademark but haven't heard anything about 'Saga'. So, how can filing a law suit against Stoic for a trademark that hasn't been granted be considered fair play, again?

And the word 'Pac' in 'Pac-Avoid' (what the hell does this mean, anyway?) doesn't even an English word. It's an made up word which Namco used for their own game 'Pac Man'. Trademarking dictionary words like 'Candy' and 'Saga' for protecting their own IP, while, at the same time, ripped off a keyword from other famous games and using in its own game's title is obviously an act of hypocrite.

Dave Bellinger
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Hey Nuttachai,

There's a bit of a misunderstanding as far as the King-Stoic situation goes. King is contesting Stoic's attempt to file a Trademark for "The Banner Saga" because it hopes to trademark "Saga". Stoic could release The Banner Saga without the trademark, but then they would be susceptible to plagiarism much more easily, and could likely be very bullied if or when King does manage to trademark 'Saga'.

Regardless of the state of King's claim to the Saga trademark, they are allowed to at least contest Stoic's claims, it's just a scummy thing to do.

Michael Thornberg
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Actually their claim for 'Saga' is rejected:

SUSPENSION LETTER - MAILED 12/4/2013
(http://www.trademarkia.com/saga-85482736.html)

Nuttachai Tipprasert
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Thank you Dave and Michael for clearing things up.

Miguel navarro
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I understand why their doing this but their going at it the wrong way. If they want to stop these copycats then they should talk to Apple and Google(Android Market), tell them to pertect their IP and stop letting all theses clones be sold.

Matt Allmer
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"Candy" and "Saga" get ALL the attention. C'mon "Crush", let's go. We don't need them.

Luke Quinn
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I can't wait for Taito to come in from nowhere and sue King for mooching off of the popularity of their Rastan Saga game...
Any day now...

Bob Charone
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When are they going to change the art style which they seem to borrow from Candy Land and Bejeweled

R. Hunter Gough
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chiming in as the one "What a nice, sensible letter. I feel better about their company now." voice among the sea of cynicism. :)


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