King has spoken, and it’s very sorry about cloning that one game.
Riccardo Zacconi, the chief executive officer of King.com, the social-gaming publisher responsible for popular titles like Candy Crush Saga, has written an open letter that explains a number of the company’s recent legal moves. Last week, King made headlines for its attempts to register trademarks for “Candy” and “Saga” in an effort to protect its properties from copycats. Zacconi’s letter explained why it is trying to lock down the rights to those common dictionary words while simultaneously apologizing for releasing a clone of another game in the past.
“At its simplest, our policy is to protect our intellectual property and to also respect the IP of others,” Zaconni wrote on the publisher’s blog. “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.”
The CEO first addressed the accusation from Matthew Cox, a Flash-game developer who alleges that King commissioned a third-party studio to explicitly copy his game Scamperghost in 2009. Zacconi admitted that King’s title, Pac-Avoid, “strongly resembles” Scamperghost, but he did not divulge the specific circumstances that led to the title’s release.
“The details of the situation are complex, but the bottom line is that we should never have published Pac-Avoid,” he wrote. “We have taken the game down from our site, and we apologize for having published it in the first place.”
Many of King’s games, especially Candy Crush Saga, have a number of lookalikes and clones on the iOS App Store and Google Play market. That is one of the major reasons it is attempting to trademark “Candy,” but Zacconi realizes that having a game like Pac-Avoid in its past makes the company appear potentially hypocritical.
“Let me be clear: This unfortunate situation is an exception to the rule,” Zacconi wrote. “King does not clone games, and we do not want anyone cloning our games.”
In addition to its trademark actions, King also filed an official opposition to developer Stoic Studios’ attempts to trademark its PC role-playing title The Banner Saga. That game has players controlling clans of Vikings in an epic story with tactical, turn-based combat. In his letter, Zacconi acknowledges that The Banner Saga is nothing like King’s games, but he explained that due to current trademark law, his company still had to file the opposition.
“We’re not trying to stop Stoic from using the word ‘Saga,’ but we had to oppose their application to preserve our own ability to protect our own games,” he wrote. “Otherwise, it would be much easier for future copycats to argue that use of the word ‘Saga’ — when related to games — is fair play.”
Finally, Zacconi defended King’s right to trademark common words.
“To protect our IP, last year we acquired the trademark in the European Union for ‘Candy’ from a company that was in bankruptcy — and we have filed for a similar trademark in the United States,” wrote Zacconi. “We’ve been the subject of no little scorn for our actions on this front, but the truth is that there is nothing very unusual about trademarking a common word for specific uses. Think of Time, Money, Fortune, Apple, and Sun, to name a few. We are not trying to control the world’s use of the word ‘Candy’; having a trade mark doesn’t allow us to do that, anyway. We’re just trying to prevent others from creating games that unfairly capitalize on our success.”
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has approved King’s application for ‘Candy,’ but other companies still have time to oppose King’s claim to the word.
King is currently the subject of a rumored initial public offering that could come later this year. The company is valued at around $5 billion.