On Monday, GameZebo reported that Candy Crush Saga developer and publisher King.com won the trademark on the word "Candy," as it relates to video games. The trademark was filed on February 6, 2013 and approved on January 15, 2014, meaning King.com can legally ask that other developers not include the word in their game titles.
King.com argues that the word "Candy" makes consumers think of its games, and any other developer using the word is creating consumer confusion and damaging its sales. And the U.S. Trademark Office currently agrees that King makes a solid case. Of course, King still has to defend its trademark, as other developers have 30 days to file an opposition to the approval.
Similar things have happened in our industry before, like the long-running Edge trademark debacle, which saw Edge Games founder Tim Langdell using his trademark to legally attack any game-related company that tried to use the word "Edge" in anything. That trademark was finally cancelled in 2013 because Langdell couldn't prove that he was using the trademark for anything other than legal trolling.
For its part, King.com told GameZebo that it is not going to enforce against all uses of the word "Candy". Instead, it's trying to fight against the many Candy Crush Saga clones on the App Store and Google Play Store.
"We have trademarked the word "candy" in the EU, as our IP is constantly being infringed and we have to enforce our rights and to protect our players from confusion. We don't enforce against all uses of candy – some are legitimate and of course, we would not ask App developers who use the term legitimately to stop doing so," said the company.
Today's issue is that King.com also owns other single word trademarks, including one attempt at "Saga". The company has filed a legal opposition to Stoic Studio's attempt to trademark "The Banner Saga," which is the title for two of its games. Why? Because King owns a ton of Saga-related trademarks outside of the word itself, including Bubble Saga, Bubble Witch Saga, Candy Crush Saga, Mahjong Saga, Puzzle Saga, Pet Rescue Saga, Hoop De Loop Saga, Pyramid Saga, Pyramid Solitaire Saga, Hidden Stories Saga, Papa Pear Saga, Farm Heroes Saga, and Diamond Digger Saga.
"Due to the similarity between [Stoic's] claimed mark, The Banner Saga, and [King's] Saga marks, customers and potential customers are likely to believe that [Stoic's] goods originate from [King], resulting in a likelihood of confusion in the marketplace, and damage to [King]," reads part of King's filing. The specific opposition was filed on January 10, 2014.
Essentially, King believes that people will see The Banner Saga and think that it's another King.com game. It's a complex situation because King.com really has run the Saga name into the ground, but it's hard to believe that people would look at Stoic's tactical strategy game and see another one of King's light puzzle titles. Ultimately, that's an argument left up to finely-honed legal minds, not us, but it is worrisome as King has deep, deep pockets to survive a long legal battle. Oddly enough, King's Saga trademark has "suspension letter" as a current status, meaning the company hasn't completely grabbed hold of that particular trademark yet.
UPDATE: King.com has told GamesIndustry International that it's not trying to take away Stoic Studios' Banner Saga trademark, it's merely doing its due diligence to protect a potential trademark. This is a real problem that some companies face, as failure to enforce their trademarks can be brought up in later cases with litigants saying that King previously consented to infringement.
"King has not and is not trying to stop Banner Saga from using its name. We do not have any concerns that Banner Saga is trying build on our brand or our content. However, like any prudent company, we need to take all appropriate steps to protect our IP, both now and in the future," a spokesperson for King told GI.biz.
"In this case, that means preserving our ability to enforce our rights in cases where other developers may try to use the Saga mark in a way which infringes our IP rights and causes player confusion. If we had not opposed Banner Saga's trademark application, it would be much easier for real copycats to argue that their use of 'Saga' was legitimate. This is an important issue for King because we already have a series of games where 'Saga' is key to the brand which our players associate with a King game; Candy Crush Saga, Bubble Witch Saga, Pet Rescue Saga, Farm Heroes Saga and so on. All of these titles have already faced substantive trademark and copyright issues with clones."