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VOL: CCCXVII NO: 40 Serving the North Quabbin Region Since 1934
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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

home : opinion : columns August 20, 2014

2/5/2014 12:27:00 PM
TECHnically Speaking
A Saga of Words
CANDY JAM -- The Google Play app store is jam packed with games that include the word
CANDY JAM -- The Google Play app store is jam packed with games that include the word "candy" in their title as a protest to King.com's attempt to trademark the word.
Not a real saga
Not a real saga
JARED ROBINSON
ADN Staff Reporter

What are words but a grouping of consonants and vowels representing sounds together to create a unit of language, right? Well then did you know you could trademark words?

A word can be trademarked when it can be proven that, when put into a certain context its meaning changes in such a way that the public can recognize it for its new meaning. For instance "Apple" is trademarked by Apple, Inc. When discussing computers or other consumer electronics and the word Apple is used most of the public understand you are talking about the company and not the fruit known to keep the doctor away.

Other notable attempts to trademark words: Donald Trump tried to trademark his catchphrase "You're Fired" and failed, likewise Sarah Palin was rejected by the US Patent and Trademark Office when she tried to trademark her own name and failed to sign the application.

In 2008 Bob Kraft tried to trademark "19-0" in reference to the Patriot's perfect season, however shortly after being rejected, as we all know, they lost the Superbowl to Eli Manning's Giants. As a jab, immediately after the Superbowl The New York Post filed a trademark for "18-1."

Recently King.com, Ltd, the company responsible for the super popular, super derivative addiction machine known as Candy Crush Saga on Facebook, Android, iOS and who knows what else, was able to trademark the word "candy" in Europe when it bought said trademark from a now defunct company. They are now actively trying to duplicate the trademark in the U.S., along with the word "saga."

Here's the rub. If the US allows companies to start trademarking common words where does it stop? Can a musician then trademark "love," after which no one else can write a love song? What if Miley Cryus was the one to do it?

The issue here is a small independent studio recently released a game that was financed via crowd funding site Kickstarter.com. That company, Stoic, created a game involving vikings in a Norse setting and named it The Banner Saga. When they attempted to trademark their game King.com stepped in and stopped the trademark from happening by claiming that Stoic's game's name was too similar to their game's name. In a statement released King.com claimed "King has not and is not trying to stop Banner Saga from using its name. 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 (intellectual property), both now and in the future."

Could someone please explain to these people that they made a derivative matching game? There's not a whole lot of originality about their "IP." Meanwhile The Banner Saga is about vikings, doing viking-related things. For the record, the word "saga" is Norse in origin and means "narrative." Not a single game in King.com's catalog, be it in Candy Crush Saga, Bubble Witch Saga, Farm Heroes Saga, Pyramid Solitaire Saga, or even Papa Pear Saga (whatever the heck that is), involves vikings doing viking-related things. I'm willing to bet if King made a game called "Vikings Doing Viking-related Things Saga" it would still not actually be considered a legitimate saga.

Also in King.com's statement they claimed that though they are not opposed to the name The Banner Saga, it's name is "deceptively" close to their game's name.

To sum it up, King.com agreed The Banner Saga is not a derivative of their game, but they also believe its name does rip off their own series of saga-named properties. This is the kind of double-think George Orwell tried to warn us about.

In response to the controversy a flood of hastily made apps and games quickly flooded app stores using the words "candy" or "saga" in their names. This peaceful protest of developers became known as the "Candy Jam" with games being named things like Happy Farm Candy, Candy Crunch, Don't Let the Candies Crush You, and The "Saga" Saga. The Candy Jam website states, "Trademarking common words is ridiculous. King clones games while making millions over it. King bullies smaller game developers. King uses curious magnetization tactics."

Unfortunately for Stoic, taking legal action against King.com is simply not an option because it means certain financial ruin. Meanwhile, as they wait for something to happen there is nothing stopping another company from coming along and making their own game also called The Banner Saga and sapping potential revenue from Stoic because the IP is not trademarked. This is the danger posed when common words are allowed to be trademarked.

But I guess it could be worse, Harley Davidson once tried to trademark the sound their engines make.







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