The gaming news sites were abuzz last week about the legal maneuverings of Candy Crush Saga creator King, both in protecting their own trademarks and opposing others. For the uninitiated, I’ve collected here some info to help sort through some of the issues.
Some background info:
First, King’s trademark registration, first applied for in 2013, was published for opposition. This means that the USPTO has declared it valid, but they are required to put it before the public for 30 days before granting the mark. In this time, any and all who oppose the mark are allowed to file their reasons for denial with the trademark office. How, you might ask, can such a generic term be trademarked? If you look at my previous post on trademark distinctiveness, you can see that using the word Candy to describe a video game is quite arbitrary. If they were trademarking the word Candy to describe confections, then it would be merely descriptive and not eligible for trademark. It’s this arbitrary nature that lies at the heart of their registration. Called the #CandyJam, it is already producing some titles. In addition to registering their own mark, King also opposed the trademark registration of “The Banner Saga” by developer Stoic.
The legal side of things:
Attorney Mona Ibrahim did an excellent Reddit AMA on the subject that fields most of the common questions from non-lawyers Great job by Ms. Ibrahim, who tackles all of the hard questions that gamers have. She explains the nuances of trademark law as they affect this case, talks about trademark strategy for both small and large companies, and (I think) successfully defends the law of intellectual property at its most basic level. Also, check out her Gamasutra blog post on the subject. Polygon also has a great article about the legal implications of the “Candy” registration for developers.
If I had to criticize King’s registration, it would be that the classes in which they are attempting to register the mark are quite broad. This kind of “shotgun” approach, as Ms. Ibrahim calls it, seems disingenuous. But now that it has been published for opposition, the onus is on others who would be harmed by the mark to oppose its registration. It remains to be seen how things play out.