King responds to game cloning and IP trolling accusations

King responds to game cloning and IP trolling accusations
Craig Chapple

By Craig Chapple

January 28th 2014 at 11:56AM

Ricardo Zacconi says company is just defending its rights, and regrets release of Pac-Avoid

The CEO of Candy Crush developer King has said it is just trying to protect its intellectual property and respect the IP of others, in a response to accusations of copyright trolling and game cloning.

The firm has been at the centre of controversy during the past week after it emerged it had copyrighted the terms 'Candy' and 'Saga' in relation to games in an effort to protect its flagship titles.

This has resulted in King making a claim against developer Stoic after it sought to trademark its own game title, The Banner Saga, a tactical RPG. King has also been accused of cloning a game called ScamperGhost with its own title, Pac-Avoid.

King CEO Riccardo Zacconi has launched a staunch defence of his company in face of such controversy by publishing an open letter on the firm's website.

He said that "like any responsible company", King had taken steps to protects its IP and ensure its employees' hard work "is not simply copied elsewhere, that we avoid player confusion and that the integrity of our brands remains".

Zacconi said Candy Crush Saga had become a flagship title for the company, reportedly seeking an IPO, and claimed some developers had tried to take advantage of its popularity with similar sounding titles and copycat gameplay and graphics.

He also explained that King was forced by law to challenge Stoic's use of the Banner Saga trademark to ensure it could defend the copyright against real copycats in future.

"We believe it is right and reasonable to defend ourselves from such copycats," said Zacconi.

"To protect our IP, last year we acquired the trademark in the EU for 'Candy' from a company that was in bankruptcy – and we have filed for a similar trademark in the US. We’ve been the subject of no little scorn for our actions on this front, but the truth is that there is nothing very unusual about trademarking a common word for specific uses. Think of 'Time', 'Money', 'Fortune', 'Apple', and 'Sun', to name a few. We are not trying to control the world’s use of the word 'Candy'; having a trademark doesn’t allow us to do that anyway. We’re just trying to prevent others from creating games that unfairly capitalise on our success.

"Separately, we have opposed the game developer, Stoic’s application to trademark 'Banner Saga'. We don't believe that Banner Saga resembles any of our games but we already have a series of games where 'Saga' is key to the brand which our players associate with King, such as 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.

"We’re not trying to stop Stoic from using the word Saga but we had to oppose their application to preserve our own ability to protect our own games. Otherwise, it would be much easier for future copycats to argue that use of the word 'Saga' when related to games, was fair play."

Zacconi also discussed game cloning accusations in relation to Pac-Avoid, calling details of the situation "complex". Indie developer Matthew Cox posted side-by-side screenshots of Pac-Avoid and ScamperGhost on his website, claiming after King failed to licence the title, it decided to make its own version instead. He also claimed King had in fact deliberately contracted a developer to clone it.

"We were in talks with Lars Jörnow at King.com to licence our Scamperghost game. Before the deal was closed (and certainly before any contracts were signed) MaxGames.com made a better offer so we thanked King for considering our game and politely ended our negotiations," said Cox.

"King.com (giant company) retaliated against us (two young indie devs) by quickly making a direct clone of our game and almost released it before us! We only got ours out sooner because a friend close with the company contacted us privately to warn us in advance."

In response Zacconi said King "should never have published Pac-Avoid", and it has since taken the title, released five years ago, offline.

"The details of the situation are complex, but the bottom line is that we should never have published Pac-Avoid. We have taken the game down from our site, and we apologise for having published it in the first place," said Zacconi.

"Let me be clear: This unfortunate situation is an exception to the rule. King does not clone games, and we do not want anyone cloning our games.

"Before we launch any game, we do a thorough search of other games in the marketplace and review relevant trademark filings to ensure that we are not infringing anyone else’s IP. We have launched hundreds of games. Occasionally, we get things wrong. When we do, we take appropriate action."