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The Candy Crush Trademark Saga Now Involves the Word "Saga" is taking on vikings, the internet, and everything.

Mobile gaming juggernaut King, maker of Candy Crush Sagaraised some eyebrows this week when the US Patent and Trade Office (UPTO) approved its application to trademark the word "candy." These kinds intellectual property issues are surprisingly (and often, hilariously) common in the post-Zynga world that we now live in. But what looked like another Ville or "With Friends" style legal battle has reached some truly odd dimensions.


Gamers and game critics alike are never shy about their disdain for mobile apps like Candy Crush, so the news that King was trying to stake some claim in a word like "candy" was met with predictable ire online. Indie studio Cariboo had a better idea than just making snarky comments on Twitter, however: it started a game jam.

Riffing off the caffeine-fueled group development sessions that are popular among the influential indie community, "Candy Jam" is essentially a clever form of trolling. King said in a statement earlier this week that it would go after games that looked like they were trying to emulate Candy Crush's branding and fool consumers into downloading them instead, so Cariboo put out a call for indie developers to make as many game as possible "involving candies."

"Consider using the word 'candy' several times," the statement on Candy Jam's website reads. "Also 'scroll,' 'memory,' 'saga,' 'apple' and 'edge' might give bonus points." In other words: try to overload King's very capacity to tell who's using "candy" for good or evil.

And that's just the word "candy." Another court document that was unearthed and posted online this week showed that King had also filed a notice of opposition against a handful of other trademark applications that all contain the word "saga." Of particular note here is The Banner Saga, a Viking-themed fantasy game that has about as much in common with Candy Crush as Game of Thrones does with Teletubbies.


The Banner Saga came out earlier this month, and was met with strong praise from exactly the kind of people who are primed to hate King, Candy Crush, and everything they stand for. The game was made by Stoic Studio, an indie studio made up of three developers who come from BioWare, another studio known for making richly detailed, narrative-driven games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age.

This is what The Banner Saga looks like. Not a whole lot like Candy Crush, right?

It's understandable that King would want to protect its interests as much as possible, given that the source of much of its commercial success is the notoriously fickle mobile games market. But even then, you can understand how people would see it as a bully here. It's a 550-person company that's constantly the subject of financial rumors about a possible initial public offering. The Kickstarter campaign that made The Banner Saga possible came in just shy of $750,000, which is less than Candy Crush is estimated to make in a single day.

A King representative wasn't immediately available for comment, but in a widely circulated statement, the company said that it is "not trying to stop Banner Saga from using its name." Rather, it was just trying to protect itself against actual copycats:

We do not have any concerns that Banner Saga is trying build on our brand or our content. However, like any prudent company, we need to take all appropriate steps to protect our IP, both now and in the future.


In this case, that means preserving our ability to enforce our rights in cases where other developers may try to use the Saga mark in a way which infringes our IP rights and causes player confusion. If we had not opposed Banner Saga’s trade mark application, it would be much easier for real copy cats to argue that their use of ‘Saga’ was legitimate.

This is an important issue for King because we already have a series of games where ‘Saga’ is key to the brand which our players associate with a King game; Candy Crush Saga, Bubble Witch Saga, Pet Rescue Saga, Farm Heroes Saga and so on. All of these titles have already faced substantive trademark and copyright issues with clones.

As I said yesterday, King's concerns about other mobile game developers trying scrape away some of its profits are entirely legitimate. So making a statement about its willingness to pursue legal action against other "saga" abusers might prove to be a useful flex of its intellectual property muscles. But it certainly didn't do itself any favors by suggesting there's any bad blood between it and a darling indie studio that gamers love.

For its part, Stoic told Motherboard in a statement that it plans to stay the course with The Banner Saga and its planned sequels.

"We don't make a viking saga without the word Saga, and we don't appreciate anyone telling us we can't," Stoic co-founder Alex Thomas said in a statement. " claims they're not attempting to prevent us from using The Banner Saga, and yet their legal opposition to our trademark filing remains. We're humbled by the outpouring of support and honored to have others stand with us for the right to their own Saga.  We just want to make great games."