Albert Ransom, the independent developer behind a game called CandySwipe, has written an open letter to King.com, the company behind the super-popular Candy Crush Saga mobile game. In his letter, posted on his website, Ransom claims that King.com’s intellectual property practices that have cost him his livelihood by applying to revoke his trademark rights.
King.com have succeeded, despite the fact CandySwipe was released two years before Candy Crush Saga and there’s compelling evidence that King.com ripped off his designs for the name and logo.
What’s worse, says Ransom, is that CandySwipe was developed in memory of his mother, who died of leukemia. Ransom says she enjoyed casual games of its ilk so much, he wanted to develop one in her name.
Earlier this year, the Candy Crush developer was granted the copyright on the word “Candy”, a move that means any developer with “candy” in its game’s name can now be sued by King.com for copyright infringement. There is some division within the game development community over it, as many studios feel the trademarking of a common word like “candy” is ridiculous.
But that’s not why Ransom penned his complaint. He wrote it because he’s been in opposition of King.com’s efforts to have Candy Crush Saga trademarked since 2012, due to the fact that it was extremely similar to his own game, CandySwipe. Ransom’s title was released many months before Candy Crush even appeared. He also felt the name would cause confusion around the brand that he’d created – a fair point, as some elements of Candy Crush Saga bear a strong resemblance to his game – but he ultimately lost that battle.
The loss meant he could no longer call his game CandySwipe or even sell it, effectively preventing him from earning a living from the hard work he had put into the game.
“I hope you’re happy taking the food out of my family’s mouth when CandySwipe clearly existed well before Candy Crush Saga”, he wrote in his open letter.
Ransom also points out that the company’s actions are in direct contradiction to an open letter on intellectual property that was recently published on the King.com website. “We believe in a thriving game development community, and believe that good game developers – both small and large – have every right to protect the hard work they do and the games they create,” reads part the letter.
Ultimately, whether Ransom’s game came out before Candy Crush or Candy Crush Saga doesn’t even matter anymore: King.com now owns the rights to the word “candy”, and if there is a legal basis for possible confusion between any other game bearing the word and King.com’s games, they are well within their rights to take legal action. An ironic twist, since that’s the reason Ransom opposed the Candy Crush Saga trademark application in the first place.
What King.com has done to Ransom might not be nice, and in fact could be said to be many other things on the opposite end of the spectrum to “nice”, but according to the law it’s fine and dandy because all they’re doing is protecting their intellectual property.
King.com did the same thing with the word “Saga”, going so far as to take legal action against an Indie game called The Banner Saga on the basis of people possibly confusing the game with any of King.com’s many games that bear the word, despite The Banner Saga not bearing any resemblance to King’s games. The matter is currently pending in court.
Fortunately, the industry isn’t taking all of this lying down. As a form of protest, a Global Game Jam was specifically organised to brainstorm new games that incorporate candy in some way, and the International Game Developer’s Association (IGDA) issued a statement yesterday detailing their intentions to use their Business and Legal Special Interest Group to investigate King.com’s claim to “candy” and “saga”, as well as their subsequent behaviour.
So the story isn’t over yet. That doesn’t help Ransom at this time, however, but it’s heartening to know that King.com’s behaviour isn’t going to be allowed to pass without proper scrutiny.