Today In Trademark Fun: Manufacturer of Candy Crush Now Owns The Word ‘Candy’
Have you played Candy Crush? Are you addicted to the rush of winning the lower levels, only to be driven mad by the higher, completely unfinishable levels? You’re not alone. Soon, though, you won’t be able to salve your wounded ego by playing other candy-themed games, because Candy Crush manufacturer King Ltd. trademarked the word “candy” and is going HARD after other games that were foolish enough to believe they could use a common English word for sweets in their game name.
In a filing with the US trademark office dated February 6, 2013, King.com Limited registered claim to the word ‘candy’ as it pertains to video games and, strangely, clothing. On January 15, 2014 the filing was approved. And now, a mere five days later, reports are coming in from developers that they’re being asked to remove their app (or prove that their game doesn’t infringe upon the trademark).
“Lots of devs are frustrated cause it seems so ridiculous” says Benny Hsu, the maker of All Candy Casino Slots – Jewel Craze Connect: Big Blast Mania Land. Benny’s game, which shares no similarities with King’s properties aside from the word ‘candy,’ is one of a number of games that have been targeted by King.
Now, to be honest, we were skeptical that this was some sort of urban game legend making its way around the blogosphere, so we went and looked up the original trademark filing, because these are the things we do for you. Receiving a trademark for “candy” as it relates to computer games might be fathomable if King could argue that it was the first to use “candy” in a game, which seems unlikely, but everything goes off the rails into complete overreach land when you realize that King got a trademark to use “candy” in oodles of things not related to games. (If the link just sends you to the federal site that searches for trademarks, just search for serial number 85842584.)
We can’t even cut and paste all the things it covers because it would make this blog post an undending wall of 1000 words of text, Glenn Greenwald-styley, so here’s a smattering of things where Candy Crush can cockblock you from using “candy.”
Camcorders, cassette papers, spectacle frames, electronic teaching equipment, clothing including aprons, bathrobes, dresses, ear muffs, and overcoats, and hosting karaoke parties for others.
Mercifully, they did not seek to obtain a trademark ruling on actual candy, so at least you can still look forward to rampant purchasing of sugary snacks unfettered by trademark concerns.
Some folks with cleaner more pure hearts than ours decided that this must be some sort of mistake and reached out to King to find out.
Hsu contacted Sophie Hallstrom, King’s IP paralegal, to discuss the matter further. Rather than the simple “oops, our mistake” that Benny was hoping for, he was given a very finite response. “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,” reads Hallstrom’s reply. “The addition of only the descriptive term “SLOTS” does nothing to lessen the likelihood of confusion.”
Hmmmm. Now, game developers or sunglass makers or what have you are free to reach out and challenge the trademark or work out an agreement with King where you are allowed to use the precious precious word “candy,” but the chances that a small developer shop is going to have the coin or the wherewithal to do that are pretty slim. Apple has already informed iOS developers they can’t use the word, and “memory” is also off the table for any further iOS games as someone owns that.
This will no doubt enter the great pantheon of nonsense trademark-related happenings like Paris Hilton successfully registering “That’s Hot,” though thankfully only in limited situations like clothing and alcohol and things that actually reference Paris Hilton. Perhaps this can become as mockworthy and infamous as the greatest cease-and-desist letter of all time: when the National Pork Board told ThinkGeek they could no longer use the phrase “The Other White Meat” to refer to their entirely imaginary product, unicorn meat.
It is your patriotic duty today to design a video game today that is called “That’s Hot Other Candy Memory White Meat” in honor of this whole situation. Words, like information, want to be free.