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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 rz@king.com.

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