12
Feb
unnamed (7)

King.com isn't doing a lot to win positive publicity lately. The company's aggressive strategy toward establishing IP dominance in the industry has won the ire of most of the web, and for good reason: it's kind of super asshole-ish.

Another story of King's evil started to gain traction today, in the form of an open letter from the developer of a game called Candy Swipe.

The developer of Candy Swipe, Albert Ransom, filed his trademark for CandySwipe in 2010 under his company Runsome Apps, Inc. CandySwipe is a pretty typical Bejeweled "match 3" clone - one of thousands of such games to be developed in the past decade-plus since that game was originally published. (As an aside, Mr. Ransom's is not the first such game to be candy-themed. See: 1, 2, 3 - there are doubtless more examples, too.)

In 2012, King.com released Candy Crush Saga. Now, King is seeking to cancel Mr. Ransom's trademark on CandySwipe, effectively destroying any legal protection that name enjoys. Let's explore what's actually going on here, starting with the games.

Mr. Ransom makes a point of the two games' high level of similarity. Agreed - they are both candy-themed, grid-based match three games, that much is clear. He also points out some of the visual similarities between the two games in this diagram.

gamezebo-CandySwipe-CandyCrushSaga

He goes on to say: "Two years after I released CandySwipe, you released Candy Crush Saga on mobile; the app icon, candy pieces, and even the rewarding, "Sweet!" are nearly identical."

Now, before you go screaming "ripoff," it's important to recognize a couple of things. First, this diagram is arranged such that you are supposed to see a similarity between the assets (same background, similar size, spacing, sorted by color, etc). CandySwipe's assets, however, aside from the "Sweet!" dialog, really only vaguely resemble those of King's. None of the objects are actually the same, and the lemon drop vs the candy corn and the two icons with multiple items are actually pretty poor matches. Only two of the candy objects are even shaped similarly. When pointing to the app icons, CandySwipe also fails to mention they don't use that particular icon anymore. The "Sweet!" dialog, I admit, is more than a bit suspicious.

Regardless, what's missing here is a more telling side by side of the two games, one that paints a markedly different picture.

unnamed (6) Screenshot_2014-02-12-14-44-51

I ask, honestly, would you say these two look confusingly similar? There is no wrong answer to that question, but think about it this way - if you were given 5 random screenshots from each game, unordered, could you sort them into two piles correctly? This, I think, is where Mr. Ransom's implication that King stole his idea is a bit more tenuous.

Anyway, I want to be clear: I am not trying to tear down Mr. Ransom's argument so much as I am trying to show that this story isn't as cut and dry as perhaps our guts might all want us to think. And, yes, there are yet more complications to explore.

King.com was not the first actor in this scuffle - Mr. Ransom was. He filed an opposition to King's trademark application for Candy Crush Saga (note: this is not King's trademark for the word "Candy," but the one specific to "Candy Crush Saga"). He presents more than ample evidence, too, of actual confusion between the two companies' products. Hundreds of instances of users either downloading his game believing it to be King's title or calling Ransom's game a knockoff. We all know that hurts - Mr. Ransom clearly put a lot of time and effort into his product, achieved millions of downloads, and all to see its visibility swept away by a company whose own, similar product becomes nearly ubiquitous thanks to advertising and money. And came out 2 years later, to boot.

Mr. Ransom is understandably mad that King's product has essentially pulled the rug out from under his own aspirations, and taken a likely very sizable hunk of his customer base with it. That sucks. That part, though, is as they say, business.

King's response to Ransom's opposition to their trademark filing was pretty rough. And now, it seems they're playing hardball - King purchased a trademark predating CandySwipe's filing date and are now seeking to cancel Ransom's trademark on the basis of that old mark. From the motion to amend:

It recently came to King’s attention that AIM Productions N.V. has used the mark CANDY CRUSHER since at least as early as 2004 in connection with game software, including use as a mobile application game available for download in the United States. These common law rights pre-date Runsome’s earliest asserted use date by years.

The legal reasoning provided by King is sound, as well. Ransom's argument was predicated on Candy Crush Saga and CandySwipe being confusingly similar marks. King now retorts that Candy Crusher (which in its filing claims mobile software games in its scope) is so obviously similar to Candy Crush Saga and Candy Crush that by a legal principal known as "tacking" King has now essentially owned the right to Candy Crush Saga since 2004, when the trademark application for Candy Crusher was filed. Yes, this sounds kind of messed up. Yes, this is how trademark law works, and the argument does logically follow on that basis. Whether King's motion to amend its opposition will go through remains to be seen (it likely will), but Ransom already has given up anyway.

What happens to Ransom's app? He'll probably rename it such that the title lacks the word "candy" and develop some new copy as necessary. Or let it die. He could actually keep using the name, but to do so would essentially be daring King to sue him, which at this point they'd probably be all too happy to do, if not essentially legally obligated by the events that have transpired.

Unfortunately, the moral of the story is, more than anything, don't get in the way of a multi-billion dollar company's trademark filing unless you have the means to see it through. While I genuinely believe Mr. Ransom thought he was fighting the good fight and protecting his business, the fact is, he did start the fight. Who's to say what King would have done if he hadn't opposed the filing - maybe nothing at all. And what choice did they really have? To simply give up on filing for the "Candy Crush Saga" mark? We all know that's not realistic. And even if you hate King, their right to trademark the game's full title isn't exactly controversial.

I don't think either party was totally in the right here - King's dirty tactic of buying up an old mark to try and cancel Ransom's is scummy indeed. It's exactly the kind of thing they should deservedly get a bad rap for. But I do think this whole situation is a bit different from the "Saga" nonsense or trying to get a mark on "Candy" by itself, in that it's not inherently King's fault it went down like it did. Sadly, it seems someone's small business was caught in the crossfire, though.

Open letter to King. Thanks, +Nate.

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • Gabernasher

    Can we just kill off the USPTO? They seriously cause nothing but problems. Remake them and only hire people who are not retarded.

    • BK

      +1, except for the "retarded" bit.

  • JustAGuest

    You can see where you would get the idea from. It's VERY noticeable. Still, either way. I find Bejeweled way more enjoyable. I just can't get into Candy Crush. One swipe will cause a chain reaction of over nearly 20 pieces to be eliminated.

    Candy Crush Saga isn't a game. It's a puzzle.

    I feel so off topic...

    • Ryan

      I agree. As much as I hate EA though, but Bejeweled is such a fun game. (EA owns PopCap for those who.. may not be aware)

      Not played Candy Crush Saga myself, but I have no intentions to, and definitely not after hearing all this...

    • mustbepbs

      It's not even a puzzle. There are so many random factors in Candy Crush that it's simply a game of chance. No amount of planning can predict the pieces or what falls. It's a matter of time and money you spend. Luckily, my wife is patient and hasn't spent a dime.

      • JustAGuest

        It's a puzzle if you think more into it. Certain amount of moves, a grid, and requires your mind to think of the proper pattern to be able to beat the level. If you think about it, it's a little like Chess.

        If you play a computer on easy, you'll win left and right. Harder, you'll keep trying till you get. even if it takes days. Candy Crush, as you get higher, it gets harder, like any puzzle game.

        • mustbepbs

          You can't really plan any moves out, as whatever falls (and things fall very quickly) from the top is totally random. It's not like Tetris where you see the piece coming next. Candy Crush is designed to test your patience and try to get you to open your wallet. Plain and simple.

  • Matthew Fry

    Ugh... you can actually buy a trademark? While I think it makes sense for a company inheriting a property to also assume the trademark but to just buy the trademark? I hate King so much.

    • flosserelli

      Money buys anything in 'murica...

      • butt

        *AmeriDUH

  • flosserelli

    I have never played Candy Crush and I have zero interest in doing so. But judging solely from the screenshots, I think it is pretty obvious that King's Candy Crush stole the gameplay idea from Mr Ransom's game and polished the graphics a bit. Mr Ransom should have hired Apple's patent attorneys, it would have been a slam dunk.

    • mustbepbs

      Or the US Patent Office is as corrupt as any other segment of the US government. Anyone can be bought, it's just a matter of price.

      • flosserelli

        Agreed. I said the same thing to Mr Fry below.

    • USSENTERNCC1701E

      Well, the game play idea is cloned from Bejeweled. I don't think the idea of using candy pieces in it is so innovative that two different companies couldn't have come up with the idea. King are definitely being assholes, but I don't think they stole anything from Ransom.

      • Kougetsu Barakage

        its not about the gameplay method, its about the presentation.

        • gabzo

          and then he stole the idea from candy crusher. You can't say that using candy is stealing a presentation. Should samsung not be allowed to make a touchscreen phone with one button on it. If his idea was so inovative he would have to get a pattent. Copyright protects the actual piece not the idea.

    • bunnyrut

      well, if Mr Ransom were to go to apple and sell his game to them, then maybe apple can turn around and sue king for all the money they got for stealing the game that they now own.
      ransom would lose his game forever, but so would king. that's a loss i would take.

    • gabzo

      If you play the games you'll see the gameplay is NOT the same....AT ALL

  • Simon Belmont

    And yet millions will continue to play this game by that scumbag company. Including friends of mine.

    I can't blame the little guy for trying to protect his game's name. It's just a shame that deep pockets always seem to win the war with this sort of thing.

  • Wesley Modderkolk

    As much as I hate King for their recent actions regarding trademarks, I must say this one is pretty epic. They defeated someone in their own game, and I applaud them for that.

  • Ysel1948

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  • Sinistar83

    Sorta OT, but these lawsuits with the candy/match 3 type games with similar assets reminds me of the lawsuit back in the arcade days when Capcom was suing Data East for copying Street Fighter II, does anyone remember that? http://www.1up.com/do/blogEntry?bId=9084268

  • Derek

    You're a fool David... King went out and bought an old trademark and that's the ONLY way they won in this circumstance. How did Ransom opposing King's trademark filing put him in the wrong in ANY possible way? He actually had a more legit claim in this circumstance prior to King going out and using their money to win out. The only thing that won out here was money. Try and use some common sense next time.

  • Wayne Randall

    "An Epic Tale Of Different Candy-Themed Bejeweled Clone Fights King's Candy Crush Saga Trademark, King Responds Predictably"

    ftfy

  • http://ralphchastain.com/ Ralph Chastain

    Only in America.

  • abobobilly

    First thing first.

    DEATH... TO KING.

    AGONIZING DEATH ... TO THAT D*CK SITTING IN TRADEMARK OFFICE

  • Christopher Williamson

    Surely, if you're running a blog on Android news - it is your role to report the news and not to spin it. The reason this developer thought he was fighting 'the good fight' and 'started it' is because he legally DID have have that patent. AIM could sue him, sure! But why is this article written in such a way as to stroke the ego of King?

    Seems rather biased to me.

  • pinetreehater

    I am not so sure King would win. The lawsuit begins at the point it was filled. You don't get to go and buy a trademark after the fact and make the original case go away. At the point the lawsuit was filled, Candy Swipe was in the right. For an analogy, you are charged with Bank robbery, but then return all the money. At the point you were charged, you were still guilty and giving the money back would not change the outcome.

  • Jayhawk84

    The iphone and first galaxy phone look nothing alike but the court thought differently and Apple successfully sued Samsung for one billion dollars in damages. I would be a fool to think Mr Ransom doesn't have a very solid case here. Apparently the courts have made it clear that two things that don't look alike is copying. I say Mr Ransom should sue King's pants off.

  • qu4ttro

    Fuck King and their retarded candy game. candy candy candy fuckers.

  • http://brgulker.wordpress.com/ brgulker

    Candy Swipe is also terrible. Just putting that out there. It doesn't even run on the Nexus 5.

  • bhud6264

    The fact that you can buy an earlier trademark in order to not be held accountable for stealing is wrong on so many levels. The whole system is so corrupt! I will never play or download a king game again just on principle. Scum bag big corp at it again. This man should sue everyone involved and let a jury of his peers decide. He would win! This is a case that needs full disclosure to the people and the kind of thing that needs a petition to Obama to fix! Companies should not be allowed to circumvent the law which they clearly are doing!

  • KnowledgeisPower

    I play Candy Crush Saga and I will STILL continue to play even after reading this erroneous article. This guys game "Candy Swipe" doesn't even look like Candy Crush Saga. All of his game pieces are totally irrelevant to CCS and also I think that this guy is just trying to look the wounded sheep. So you made a game that is horrible and then say that King ripped you off, too bad dumbass thats business and yeah your game doesn't have the grandeur Candy Crush Saga has! On further note for all of those uneducated derelicts posting that this game is based on luck, You are absolutely wrong. This game has a pattern that you must figure out just like any other game that you have ever played.

    • ThedumbingdownofAmerica

      O My God! you have got to be stupid! The only strategy being used with Candy Crush is on the part of King. Their strategy is to get you addicted to their mind numbing, mind dumbing game... get you hooked by keeping you from going to the next level so you stupidly type your credit card number into your game account. Then you have to bug the crap out your "friends" so they can get hooked, get stupid and join in on the idiocy of handing their money over and over again. You'd be better off sending your money to a fake faith healer that promises to get you to the next level of fat candy heaven if only you.... send them your money and sacrifice your friends!

  • Kougetsu Barakage

    Musicians have been sued for much less obvious things that I believe were unwarranted. Ransom has a strong case, imo, to sue for trademark/copyright infringement.

  • Antoine Hart

    sorry for this guys lost..but candy swipe and candy crush are both knock offs of bejeweled...you cant get mad at a company stealing your idea..when your idea was your original in the first place

  • J. Long

    I can't believe this author.

    Essentially he's endorsing big money and asking Mr. Ransom to curl up in a ball and die all because he apparently doesn't have big money to see a legal wrangle through.

    I honestly wonder if this is an opinion piece or a paid article sponsored by King.com

  • Brpwrdnsfrnzy

    Having just downloaded and played Candy Swipe, there's virtually no similarity between the games. The claim that King nicked or copied his game just doesn't stand up.

  • J

    Ah, this guy is genius. He couldn't win in court because his case is bullshit, so now he's using some sad story and attacking the "big rich evil company" so you sheep will go download his game and make him more money. Have fun being manipulated.

  • Dunkalunk

    Everybody relax. The author's point is that they are both bejeweled clones. Neither one is particularly innovative. Therefore it's not the slam dunk David and Goliath story it's billed to be, as David just rebranded somebody else's creations himself. At that point, when he gets beat by a big company that can just outspend and muscle their way through, it's hard to have the same level of sympathy.

    King is still a bunch of assholes, but I don't think the author of this article is one.

  • Mike Keilty

    I know you're trying to play devil's advocate in this article, and I can appreciate that, but you come off as a HUGE douchebag. The biggest. What King did was completely and utterly disgusting and to even think about defending their position (for me) is nauseating

  • theshinyinternets

    Finally, a balanced assessment of the battle. King is a large corporation with assets that they put to good use, and you can hate them for it all you want, but Ransom is a) an idiot, and b) guided by emotion rather than any actual understanding of patent/trademark/copyright law. It's an incredibly common gameplay, and certainly not the only one with a candy theme. Using the word "sweet" in a candy game is hardly suspicious. Candy is sweet. There's no conspiracy. Everyone is developing different variations on the handful of major game designs. If someone does a better job than you, that doesn't make it trademark infringement. Your mark has to be so unique and widespread that it is unmistakeable, and the similarities so close as to be confusing. Neither are the case here.

  • Guest

    Search "Jewel Quest" on Google and look at the release date. King should be sued.

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