Updated on January 21st, at 12:14: King has responded to the concerns surrounding its trademarking of the word "candy", and its targeting of infringing games for removal.
Speaking to GI.biz, a spokesperson for King said the following:
"We have trademarked the word 'CANDY' in the EU, as our IP is constantly being infringed and we have to enforce our rights and to 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."
"The particular App in this instance was called 'Candy Casino Slots - Jewels Craze Connect: Big Blast Mania Land', but its icon in the App store just says 'Candy Slots', focussing heavily on our trademark.
"We believe this App name was a a calculated attempt to use other companies' IP to enhance its own games, through means such as search rankings."
Original story follows...
Developer of Candy Crush Saga, King, has started asking developers with the word "candy" in their game titles to remove their apps following a new trademark.
King filed a trademark for the word "candy" back in February 2013. As seen on Trademarkia, that trademark was approved on January 15th 2014.
This has enabled King to send letters via Apple's legal department to the developers of games with the word "candy" in them. These letters ask the developer to remove the app, or otherwise prove that they aren't infringing on King's trademark.
One developer targeted by King is Benny Hsu, creator of All Candy Casino Slots – Jewel Craze Connect: Big Blast Mania Land, which is a game that bears no resemblance to Candy Crush Saga.
Hsu told GameZebo that after he received the letter asking to take his game down, he contacted Sophie Hallstrom, King's IP paralegal. She replied with the following:
"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."
Sweet and sour
GameZebo also spoke to IP legal expert, Martin Schwimmer, who explained that King's letters aren't necessarily as condemning as they may seem.
"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," Schwimmer suggested.
"It would likely be able to enforce its rights against marks that are connotatively, phonetically or visually similar, for games that are conceivably competitive."
Being an indie developer, Hsu doesn't have the capacity to argue with King's totally legal request. So Hsu's plan is to change the game's title rather than incur any legal costs that may arise from an objection.
Hsu adds: "Last year I learned I couldn't use the word MEMORY because it was trademarked. Now I wonder what other common words will be trademarked in the App Store."