King: "We should never have published Pac-Avoid"

Publisher posts open letter on ongoing IP conflicts

Candy Crush Saga publisher King has posted an open letter clarifying its stance on its recent and ongoing IP conflicts, reiterating that it is not attempting to change the name of Stoic's Banner Saga and admitting that it made a mistake in publishing Pac-Avoid.

"At its simplest, our policy is to protect our IP and to also respect the IP of others," writes CEO and co-founder Riccardo Zacconi.

"We believe in a thriving game development community, and believe that good game developers - both small and large - have every right to protect the hard work they do and the games they create.

"Like any responsible company, we take appropriate steps to protect our IP, including our look-and-feel and trademarks. Our goals are simple: to ensure that our employees' hard work is not simply copied elsewhere, that we avoid player confusion and that the integrity of our brands remains."

Zacconi then goes on to address the accusations of Matt Cox, founder of Stolen Goose, who claimed King had cloned a game of his when a publishing deal fell through. Zacconi calls the situation "complex", but takes responsibility for the mistake.

"The debate here revolves around Pac-Avoid," he writes, "a game coded by a third-party on our behalf nearly five years ago. The game strongly resembles another game called ScamperGhost. 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.

"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."

Further on in his letter, Zacconi explains the company's stance on the use of 'Saga' by Stoic for its forthcoming RPG 'Banner Saga'. Originally, reports surfaced that King was attempting to force Stoic to rename the game, having lodged a legal complaint and extending the copyright registration period twice. King then claimed that this was a claim in name only, to ensure that its IP remained protected, and that it wouldn't be followed up in court. Stoic remained uncertain, but Zacconi explicitly explains the stance in his letter.

"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.

"We think discussion and debate on these issues is a positive thing. We welcome comments on everything we do from inside and outside the company. We regularly discuss and review our approach and will continue to do so going forward. Above all, if anyone has a complaint about how we implement our policies, we will investigate that complaint promptly and fairly."

Zacconi signs off with an invitation for anyone feeling affronted or unfairly treated by King's actions for email him personally with the address

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Latest comments (13)

Steve Wetz Reviewer/Assistant Editor, Gamer's Glance4 years ago
That was a quick turnaround. King went from wielding the cloning banhammer, to being blamed for cloning, to denying such claims, and then "admitting" (as much as they can without inviting lawsuit) they did actually clone ScamperGhost.

All in the space of a week! At this rate, King will be filling for Chapter 11 next week, announcing their restructure and purchase by EA a few days later, then announce a joint Zynga-King venture called Farming Candyville Saga, exclusively for the XBox One.

EDIT: I left out the part where they trademark this comment and then sue me for infringement.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Steve Wetz on 27th January 2014 7:32pm

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Christopher Bowen Editor in Chief, Gaming Bus4 years ago
And in the "Gee, you fuckin' think?" department...
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"Separately, we have opposed the game developer, Stoic's application to trademark 'Banner Saga."

Therein lies the problem guys. Can you explain how The Banner Saga egregiously stomps on your hard work?

"We don't believe that Banner Saga resembles any of our games, but..."

...we're going to mess them up anyway to make our 100% unrelated game 0.07% safer from IP theft.

This is why trademarking is a minefield of bullshit, bullying and ever-fatter lawyers. Nobody has hurt anybody, but someone has to die anyway - so says the wisdom of IP law. I would really hope King see sense and let this one slide.
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Show all comments (13)
and so continues the invasion of the suits into our beloved art form and industry.
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Nuttachai Tipprasert Programmer 4 years ago
Can anyone confirm me that King's 'Saga' has already been approved? I only see the news about they now own 'Candy' but nowhere mentioning 'Saga'. So, I'm really curious how can they oppose Stoic for the trademark that they haven't owned yet in the first place?
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Sandy Lobban Founder, Noise Me Up4 years ago
I think the response is along the right lines given their current position. HOWEVER, no franchise lasts forever and interest will fade. You've got to ask yourself, is this doing anyone (including myself) any favours over the longer term? Probably not as we have seen previously with the term "edge". We shouldnt tie eachother up in litigation and we should respect the relatively fleeting nature of games based entertainment and idea trends.
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@Sandy Exactly. While King do have to be careful about real theft, they're not being carried along by the winds on this: going to war with Stoic is a concious decision made in full knowledge of the harm it could bring on the business of a much smaller and perfectly innocent studio.

So I find it strange that we're supposed to just accept it and say "they have no choice, their legal team tell them so." As if the priestly caste of Business demands entrails be spilled and we all just bray along.

These guys are asking King to ruin their own reputation and stand on the neck of a talented company on the faint hope that some nebulous trademark has a percentile chance of being safer long term. If I were King I'd say balls to the Clerics on this one.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.4 years ago
Can anyone confirm me that King's 'Saga' has already been approved? I only see the news about they now own 'Candy' but nowhere mentioning 'Saga'. So, I'm really curious how can they oppose Stoic for the trademark that they haven't owned yet in the first place?
Click the link below. If it leads to the USPTO search page, use the file number as seen at the end of the link itself.

There are two tabs of interest. The Status and Documents tabs. Lots to read in the Documents tab.
And if I recall correctly, you can begin the defense of a trademark prior to final approval.
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Sandy Lobban Founder, Noise Me Up4 years ago
@Barry. I agree totally on the reputation thing. It just serves no purpose long term. A new puzzle game will come along and it will send this one into the history books. Name and all. It's at that point you ask yourself, do we focus on chasing people, or do we focus on an awesome new title instead. Making a new game will keep their people in jobs. Chasing people around in a broad context wont.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Sandy Lobban on 28th January 2014 2:16pm

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Steve Wetz Reviewer/Assistant Editor, Gamer's Glance4 years ago

You should totally name your next game "The Room 3 -Saga of the Candy Crushing MacGuffin." Love your work, BTW.
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development4 years ago
We should never have published Pac-Avoid
And yet you did.
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Nuttachai Tipprasert Programmer 4 years ago
Thank you Jim.
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Dan Wood Visual Effects Artist 4 years ago
It seems King made their own bed and are now having to grudgingly sleep in it. There are two completely disparate elements at play here. While it may seem preposterous to be granted the "Candy" trademark, within the scope they have been granted it, there is flagrant use of the word alone to infringe on their brand, pretty much as there is with almost any even vaguely successful Android-marketplace game. They could have pretty easily kept out of the firing line if they'd just stuck with that.

They *don't* hold the trademark to the word "Saga", nor are they ever likely to, even within the limited scope of mobile gaming, let alone the entire gaming industry. If you seek to build a brand around a term no less generic within the games industry than the word "Story" or "Simulator", you deserve all the flak you receive if you then start trying to throw your weight around when others happen to accidentally cross paths with your branding exercise.
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