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 Triple Town 's Spry Fox sues  Yeti Town  dev 6Waves Lolapps
Triple Town's Spry Fox sues Yeti Town dev 6Waves Lolapps
January 29, 2012 | By Mike Rose

Triple Town developer Spry Fox has filed a copyright infringement suit against casual game studio 6Waves Lolapps over its latest release Yeti Town, which Spry Fox claims is a "blatant copy of Triple Town."

Last month, 6Waves Lolapps released Yeti Town as a free app for iOS devices. When asked whether the game was too similar to Spry Fox's Triple Town, 6waves Lolapps chief product officer Arjun Sethi said that taking criticism of this sort was "just part of a natural process."

However, Spry Fox's David Edery revealed today via his personal blog that the company has sued 6Waves Lolapps, citing numerous reasons why he has decided to go ahead with the lawsuit.

His first claim is that Yeti Town is "a nearly perfect copy of Triple Town," with game mechanics, tutorial language, UI elements and the prices of store items all very similar to Spry Fox's game.

He also claims that 6waves was in confidential negotiations with Spry Fox to publish Triple Town on Facebook, and that 6waves was given private access to Triple Town while it was being developed. 6waves then broke off negotiations on the day that Yeti Town was published, he claims.

A personal Facebook message from 6waves' executive director of business development Dan Laughlin, allegedly sent to Edery on the day that Yeti Town launched, is filed as evidence in the court documents, and reads, "I need to back out of any further discussions on Triple Town."

"We've just published a game on iOS that you're not going to like given its similar match-3 style. Wish this wasn't happening, but it is, and there wasn't anything I could do about it, despite my attempts."

Edery says that it was when 6waves' Sethi discussed the issue with Gamasutra, as mentioned previously, that he finally decided to do something about it.

"We are not enthusiastic about the prospect of spending our time in court as opposed to making games," Edery said. "And in general, we believe that only in the most extreme circumstances should a video game developer resort to legal action in order to defend their creative works - the last thing our industry needs is frivolous lawsuits."

"Unfortunately, it is our opinion that 6waves has behaved in a reprehensible and illegal manner, and we can not, in good conscience, ignore it... We believe that there is nothing 'natural' or ethical or legal about 6waves behavior."

He concluded, "What they did was wrong. And if they get away with it, it will simply encourage more publishers to prey on independent game developers like us. We refuse to sit back and let that happen."

[UPDATE: In a statement given to Venturebeat, 6waves Lolapps has stated, "Lolapps is disappointed that David Edery has chosen to file a lawsuit, and believes his claims are factually inaccurate."

"We respect others IP and did nothing to violate any contracts our team had in place. The copyright infringement claims are unjustified."]

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E McNeill
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While there's a good dose of justice in this particular case, the legal basis of the lawsuit (copyrighted elements rather than gameplay) doesn't seem to me to set a powerful precedent. Won't big companies still be able to clone games if they're just a little more careful about rewriting the copyrighted elements? And that's assuming the suit succeeds...

Edit: Actually, if clones are prevented from doing things like offering equivalent items for identical costs, it may cause them to differentiate themselves on a substantive gameplay level. That would be nice.

Alexander Jhin
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The root cause of so many of these "copycat" games is actually technological and staffing based, not legal. Developing for iOS and Flash requires different skill sets, so small studios are unable to develop for both, giving other companies time to snatch the iOS market.

There are some solutions for this:

1) Cross compile Flash and iOS (available from Adobe?

2) Hire Flash Devs who also know iOS development.

3) Begin work on iOS port early.

4) Don't release a game until the iOS version is already underway.

Of course, adding iOS development on top of Flash development essentially doubles the risk, unless you can minimize risk using cross compilation. Anyway, something for smaller dev companies to think about once they realize their elegant (read: simple and easy to copy) Flash game is a hit.

I feel for Spry Fox but I hope other companies can learn from this and plan ahead to avoid this.

Michael Gribbin
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Power to Spry Fox. Whether they win or not, it takes balls to put up the fight for what's right -- and if successful, maybe people will think twice about cloning successful indie works without improving on the product in any original way. It's bad for the industry, and it's bad for the morale of every game developer with a creative idea.

Fight on, Spry!

Betable Blog
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Legally, it's impossible to say what's "inspiration" versus plagiarism, which is why something like SpryFox suing 6waves is so rare. That line in the sand is a tough one to draw and everyone has a different idea of where it lies. I wrote a blog post about the line between "inspiring" and "copying", and would love to hear your comments on the issue:

Mike Reddy
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Actually, there are many precedents in law differentiating "inspiration" from "plagiarism" especially in Music. The point here is one company could see the others exam paper and allegedly cribbed the answers (to use an academic analogy).

Sean Currie
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Can you cite those precedents Mike? I'm generally interested in reading about those cases.

Timothy Tryzbiak
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This is one of the scariest issues for an independent game studio like ours.

While I absolutely believe in the ideas of inspiration and derivative work, dealing with blatant plagiarism could be a dream killer. We don't get paralyzed by this fear, but as Spry Fox is seeing it's not unfounded.

How does a start-up like ours get support from the community if sharing our ideas could lead to someone else stealing them?

Duong Nguyen
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This is inevitable, games have always "copied" each other from the very beginning.. Companies will start to take legal action to "defend" their turf and eventually a body of cases will form a consensus of what is "ok" and what is "not" with regards to games. We have plenty of cases with regards to movies, music, software algorithms, books, etc.. This is the natural evolution of a medium. The only complication here is that games are cross genre, ie they encompass music, text, visual arts, software algorithms and design. What overlap on any would constitute plagiarism?

Albert T
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I believe this case is a special case. It's not that they drew inspirations from other games. That's only natural if that's the case, but if you read the whole story and court documents, how 6waves and Spry Fox were once business partners, you could consider this stealing.

Nothing from Yeti Town has changed from Triple Town. 6waves did not do anything to make the game better.

Sean Currie
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I just finished playing that two games and, like Tiny Tower and Dream Heights, Yeti Town is clearly a wholesale ripoff of Tiny Town. It's not quite as bad as Dream Heights (Yeti Town has a more pronounced aesthetic difference) but it's still pretty overt. Whether that is actionable based on their previous business agreements I can't say, but it's sounds sleazy at the very least. Question: I've actually never played a social game quite like this before, do either of these resemble any earlier games?