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The US Patent Office Approved an App Company's Application to Trademark 'Candy'

The makers of Candy Crush just waded into some seriously contentious copyright waters.

The battle over intellectual property rights in the tech industry can often assume epic, if not outright comic, proportions. But just when you thought it couldn't get any worse than Apple patenting the page turn, mobile gaming juggernaut has swooped into app stores with a new edict to prevent rival game developers from scraping off the success of its addictive and lucrative puzzle game Candy Crush Saga—by trademarking the word "candy."


King first filed a trademark application for "candy" almost a year ago in February of 2013. But as GameZebo noticed this week, the US Patent and Trademark Office (UPTO) approved the company's application earlier this month, according to an update on its UPTO web page. GameZebo thus reports that King has already begun to enforce its new trademark by approaching rival game developers who use the word "candy" in their work and politely encouraging them to stop encroaching on "Candy Crush's" turf either by changing the name of their apps or removing them from the app store entirely.

Benjamin Hsu, for instance, told GameZebo that he received a legal notice from Apple on behalf of King essentially asking him to either remove his game All Candy Casino Slots - Jewels Craze Connect: Big Blast Mania Land from the app store or change its name to something less "Sweet!," to quote the baritone announcer from Candy Crush.

Lest we start to question King's exceedingly sugary public persona and start to see it as a latter-day Zynga, the company gave a statement to GamesIndustry International defending its position.

"We have trademarked the word 'CANDY' in the EU, as our IP is constantly being infringed and we have to enforce our rights and to protect our players from confusion," a King spokesperson told "We don't enforce against all uses of CANDY - some are legitimate and of course, we would not ask App developers who use the term legitimately to stop doing so."

It's easy to vilify King here, particularly given the fact that much of the appeal of a game like Candy Crush comes from the universal and innocuous charm of candy itself. As the video game scholar Jesper Juul told me last November: "who doesn't like candy?" Ironically, Candy Crush is itself also recognized as being little more than a reskinned version of PopCap's Bejeweled games, so there's a strong sense of hypocrisy here as well.

Many game critics, like Rock Paper Shotgun's John Walker have understandably taken King to task for what they see as a draconian abuse of intellectual property rights. But King might actually have a legitimate concern here. To call Candy Crush Saga a success is an understatement. The company is private, so it doesn't release exact numbers about how much Candy Crush earns through in-app purchases. Estimates, however, go as high as $1 million every single day. The game was Apple's single-most downloaded free app on the iPhone and iPad for 2013, and King announced last November that it had been downloaded more than 500 million times across all the platforms on which it's available.

Emerging markets that they are, mobile app stores like the iOS app store and Google Play are open to many enterprising bottom feeders. So is there really any doubt about people trying to scrape off some of Candy Crush's largesse? King told GamesIndustry International, for instance, that its issue with Hsu's game was that he had shortened the title to Candy Slots to try to make his game appear more like Candy Crush. Whether or not you buy that specific example, it's not hard to imagine other developers trying to take advantage of consumer confusion for even a fraction of Candy Crush's estimated daily revenue.

As with all trademark disputes, the real effect of King's new position will only truly begin to be felt as the company decides how, exactly, it plans to enforce it. Brands as culturally ubiquitous and commercially lucrative as Candy Crush Saga don't come around that often, so you can probably expect King to keep its candy as close to its vest as possible.