Developers all around the world, who have games on the App Store that contain the word ‘candy‘ in their title, are getting emails from Apple this morning, on behalf of King, the developers behind Candy Crush Saga. The emails were sent because King now holds a trademark to the word ‘candy.’
On February 6, 2013, King registered a claim to the word ‘candy,’ as it pertains to video games and clothing, in a filing with the U.S. trademark office. The filing was approved on January 15, 2014.
Only five days later, reports are coming in from developers saying that they are being asked to remove their app from the App Store, or prove that their game does not infringe on the trademark.
Benny Hsu the creator of All Candy Casino Slots – Jewels Craze Connect: Big Blast Mania Land is one of the many developers being targeted by King. Hsu said:
“Lots of devs are frustrated cause it seems so ridiculous.”
Hsu contacted Sophie Hallstrom, King’s IP paralegal, to discuss the matter further. Here is the reply Hsu received:
“Your use of CANDY SLOTS in your app icon uses our CANDY trade mark exactly, for identical goods, which amounts to trade mark infringement and is likely to lead to consumer confusion and damage to our brand. The addition of only the descriptive term “SLOTS” does nothing to lessen the likelihood of confusion.”
Is the connection between the word ‘candy’ and a video game strong enough to earn a company a trademark for a simple dictionary word? The U.S. Trademark Office seems to think so.
“Suggestive marks are protectable, but the problem is that third parties can claim that they thought up their mark on their own.”
Martin Schwimmer, a partner at the IP legal firm Leeson Ellis, says:
“As to how far King can enforce its rights, it will be a function of how strong its mark has become, and how similar the third party name is. It would likely be able to enforce its rights against marks that are connotatively, phonetically or visually similar, for games that are conceivably competitive. King can’t go after candy companies because candy companies don’t use the term CANDY as a trademark – they use it to identify their product.”
Schwimmer says if you are a developer who has received one of the statements from King: call a lawyer.
“A trademark lawyer can be very useful in obtaining a coexistence agreement. Often a trademark owner will accept a settlement in which the possibility of confusion is mitigated, perhaps because the developer will not expand into areas more directly competitive with the trademark owner.”
Apple’s App Store is filled with indie developers who may not have the resources to fight back, says Hsu. With Apple being seemingly complicit with King’s claims many people are wondering what the future of suggested trademarks might be.
Let us know in the comments below if you agree with what King is doing.