King.com, the company responsible for developing the closest thing to online crack, Candy Crush, has now trademarked the word “candy." This means that no other mobile games are allowed to have the word “Candy” in their name, because the giant corporation fears their billion dollar industry will be devastated.
Now, King.com can force other companies to get rid of their games completely if that word is also in their title. Escapist Magazine reports that King filed for this trademark back in February of 2013, and almost a year later it was approved (on January 15, 2014 to be exact). I imagine all the tech bros of King.com chugging some sort of beer flavored like banana bread upon hearing this joyous news. Escapist writes, “Benny Hsu, the maker of All Candy Casino Slots - Jewels Craze Connect: Big Blast Mania Land, told Gamezebo that he was asked under no uncertain terms to pull his game from the App Store.” According to Hsu, King paralegal Sophie Hallstrom, told him, “Your use of CANDY SLOTS in your app icon uses our CANDY trademark exactly, for identical goods, which amounts to trademark 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."
Look, I'm all about brands, you feel me? I happen to have my own personal brand that I am very protective of. If I saw another short, chubby, Jewish girl hovering over half a slice of pizza she spotted on the sidewalk while asking her Twitter followers if she should eat it or not, I would definitely want to take legal action for personal brand infringement. However, I can't prove that she is deliberately jocking my style. It could just happen to be a coincidence, or maybe she had been wanting to eat sidewalk pizza way before me and I had no idea. As lawyer Martin Schwimmer puts it, “Suggestive marks are protectable, but the problem is that third parties can claim that they thought up their mark on their own.” So as valid as this trademark may be, enforcing it on other parties can often be tricky.
Schwimmer also recommends that smaller game developers like Hsu, if and when they do get hounded by Sophie Hallstrom, seek legal help from a trademark professional before admitting defeat. But, as Escapist writes, “many indie developers don't have the resources for that kind of legal fight, nor can they look to Apple for help; the letter he received regarding the 'Candy Slots' infringement came by way of Apple's legal department.” Hsu says that all he can do now is change the name of his game.
King undoubtedly has a giant upper hand in this situation, but it's not like these games can no longer be candy-themed. They just can't have the word “candy” in the title. I thought “Candy Land” would have to be something like “Confectionery Land” or “Gumdrop Island” or maybe just “Diabetes," but this really just relates to mobile games, so I think Hasbro is in the clear. I'm not sure why candy is such a popular theme for games either. I understand why children would want to play a game with lollipop people and chocolate rivers or whatever, but adults really need to refine their taste. It's bad enough we compulsively play these games. Let's at least do it with some dignity. Wouldn't the game “Tofu Salad Scramble” be just as fun?
Of course, it's not as if generic words being trademarked is uncommon. There are a lot of products used in everyday life that most of us have no clue is named after one particular brand. For instance, did you know that Q-Tip is a trademarked word, and its inventor originally called them “Baby Gays”? A lot of us tend to call all cotton swabs Q-Tips, thus turning the Q-Tip into a genericized trademark. The brand becomes so synonymous with the product that we go on thinking that's actually what the product is called. The same thing happened to Rollerblades, the Escalator, and the Zipper. However, the difference here is that King did not invent the word “candy." They simply decided that they should own it.
The practice of riffing on intellectual property in order to capitalize on trends is not uncommon. The Asylum, the low-budget movie studio behind Sharknado made their mark in the mockbuster business—creating ripoffs of major films. If you've been fooled by titles like Transmorphers, American Battleship, Snakes on a Train, The DiVinci Treasure, and Almighty Thor, then you understand how precarious the trademarking game is (also, you might be a moron). These companies do have to struggle with bottom-feeders trying to make a dime off their hard work, but it's still bizarre that now one companies controls who gets to use candy in their mobile games. Still, I would support someone filing for the word “King, forcing Burger King to change their name to "Burger Male Ruler of an Independent State, a Position Usually Inherited by Birth." That would make me laugh.