Controversial free-to-play games publisher King has been accused of stealing ideas from an indie game released in 2010, then subsequently buying certain trademarks in order to circumvent his protests.
Albert Ransom shipped the Android game CandySwipe in 2010, as confirmed by articles dating back to the time of release. King, however, released Candy Crush Saga in late 2012 - a game which is now estimated to have been installed on various platforms more than 500 million times.
A PDF document issued by Ransom appears to show some similarities between Candy Crush and his own game. The document then lists examples of the confusion this has caused in the market.
However, a legal wrangle between the corporation and the indie dev has led to Ransom being informed he may soon need to cancel the name of his own game. This is because King has filed a counter legal filing to the developer's opposition to King's "Candy" trademark in the US.
In an open letter to King, he writes: "When you attempted to register your trademark in 2012, I opposed it for 'likelihood of confusion' (which is within my legal right) given I filed for my registered trademark back in 2010 (two years before Candy Crush Saga existed).
"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."
He then goes on to claim that King is able to circumvent Ransom's trademark through purchasing a game named Candy Crusher, which pre-dates the indie developer's game.
King is now attempting to cancel the Candy Swipe trademark due to the company's controversial ownership of the word "Candy" in some countries, further enforced by its recent purchase of the 2004 game Candy Crusher.
CVG has contacted King for comment. A spokesperson was unavailable to talk at the time of publication.
In January, King removed a game from the app store after it was claimed to have been a clone of another indie developer's work.
The corporation, which is aiming for an IPO this year, has triggered outrage for its recent litigious activities. The corporation recently submitted a notice of opposition to developers of The Banner Saga, claiming that the title infringes on its trademark on the word "Saga".
Riccardo Zacconi, the chief executive at King, recently tried to smooth over the issue in a statement on IP protection and trademark policies.
"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," he said.
Ransom's open letter to King follows:
Open letter to King.com who wants to cancel the registration of the CandySwipe trademark.
Congratulations! You win! I created my game CandySwipe in memory of my late mother who passed away at an early age of 62 of leukemia. I released CandySwipe in 2010 five months after she passed and I made it because she always liked these sorts of games. In fact, if you beat the full version of the android game, you will still get the message saying "...the game was made in memory of my mother, Layla..." I created this game for warmhearted people like her and to help support my family, wife and two boys 10 and 4. Two years after I released CandySwipe, you released Candy Crush Saga on mobile; the app icon, candy pieces, and even the rewarding, "Sweet!" are nearly identical. So much so, that I have hundreds of instances of actual confusion from users who think CandySwipe is Candy Crush Saga, or that CandySwipe is a Candy Crush Saga knockoff. So when you attempted to register your trademark in 2012, I opposed it for "likelihood of confusion" (which is within my legal right) given I filed for my registered trademark back in 2010 (two years before Candy Crush Saga existed). 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. You are able to do this because only within the last month you purchased the rights to a game named Candy Crusher (which is nothing like CandySwipe or even Candy Crush Saga). Good for you, you win. I hope you're happy taking the food out of my family's mouth when CandySwipe clearly existed well before Candy Crush Saga.
I have spent over three years working on this game as an independent app developer. I learned how to code on my own after my mother passed and CandySwipe was my first and most successful game; 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.
This also contradicts your recent quote by Riccardo in "An open letter on intellectual property" posted on your website which 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."
I myself was only trying to protect my hard work.
I wanted to take this moment to write you this letter so that you know who I am. Because I now know exactly what you are. Congratulations on your success!
President (Founder), Runsome Apps Inc.