What would you do if you developed a game, and two years later, a bigger company published a very similar-looking game? Then, what if, in a twist, they turned around and tried to block your pre-existing trademark in favor of theirs?
This is exactly the position that Albert Ransom, founder of Runsome Apps and designer of CandySwipe, finds himself in. In an open letter to King.com, developer of popular and addictive app Candy Crush Saga, Ransom paints a picture of a family man learning to code in the aftermath of his mother's death, of his concern when Candy Crush Saga came along two years later with similar visuals and sounds, and of his decision to go public with this side of the story: “Now, after quietly battling this trademark opposition for a year, I have learned that you now want to cancel my CandySwipe trademark so that I don't have the right to use my own game's name.” Ransom goes on to say:
It's my livelihood, and you are now attempting to take that away from me. You have taken away the possibility of CandySwipe blossoming into what it has the potential of becoming. I have been quiet, not to exploit the situation, hoping that both sides could agree on a peaceful resolution. However, your move to buy a trademark for the sole purpose of getting away with infringing on the CandySwipe trademark and goodwill just sickens me.
Ransom also mentions a recent King press release: An Open Letter on Intellectual Property from last month, in which King's CEO, Riccardo Zacconi, states: “We believe in a thriving game development community, and believe that good game developers—both small and large—have every right to protect the hard work they do and the games they create.”
But, the attempt for the multi-milion dollar company to crush it's tiny competitor certainly seems to go against that statement. The fact that they used names and visuals so similar to CandySwipe's in the first place seems to contradict a later assertion:
Before we launch any game, we do a thorough search of other games in the marketplace and review relevant trademark filings to ensure that we are not infringing anyone else’s IP. We have launched hundreds of games. Occasionally, we get things wrong. When we do, we take appropriate action.
The evidence belies this claim, and it turns out that the trademark smackdown was a prelude to King filing for IPO to become a publicly traded company. It is puzzling to many that the company with the most popular mobile game in the world and that made nearly $1.9 billion last year would even care about a game with relatively few downloads. Although some in the gaming community such as gamer girl Felicia Day and the International Game Developers Association are throwing their support behind the embattled CandySwipe, the king of candy is not likely to notice.