The British maker of the popular app Candy Crush Saga has a provisional trademark in the U.S. on the word “candy” and has begun warning other apps using the noun to cease and desist.
King.com says it filed the patent to crack down on copycat developers.
A King representative said "we have to enforce our rights and 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."
Tyler Ochoa, who teaches intellectual property at Santa Clara University School of Law, said the patent is “blatantly anti-competitive” and "unduly broad.”
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The provisional trademark given to King by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in currently undergoing its 30-day "opposition period.” But Florida game developer Benny Hsu said he already received a warning from King telling him to remove the word from his free app “All Candy Casino Slots.”
"I was very surprised to get that warning because 'candy' is such a common word and I never dreamed anyone could get a trademark for it," Hsu said.
“I don't think anyone identifies this app by the name 'candy' by itself,” said Ochoa. “They're attempting to get a monopoly or exclusive rights on anything that has the word 'candy' in it to prevent other people from making imitation games. That's blatantly anti-competitive and it's not what the trademark law is supposed to be about. It's about protecting products and brands."
Creative Strategies analyst Ben Bajarin told San Jose Mercury News he was "surprised that King could get a trademark for a word so broadly used. They didn't invent the word 'candy,' but they saw an opportunity to own it and fight their competition, which shows just how hard it is to have a successful brand and franchise in today's era of mobile gaming."
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"My game looks nothing like Candy Crush," Hsu said. "My candies are rainbow-colored lollipops; Crush uses small green and red and yellow candies."
Instead of springing for a lawyer, Hsu said he would change the name to “All Sweets Casino Slots.”
He said it’s not the first time he’s received a letter like this. He developed an app last year with “memory” in the title and "got an email from a developer that said 'we own the trademark to the word "memory," so you can't use it.'"
Candy Crush Saga has been downloaded more than 500 million times by Apple and Android users.