Copyright law is almost endlessly tricky and difficult to defend or assert. Especially if you don’t have piles of Free-to-play cash sitting around with which to hire expensive specialist lawyers. Luckily, for King, they do have those piles of cash. Unluckily, for anyone who has used the incredibly common English words “candy” or “saga” in a commercial product, King also seems to have a thirst for litigation.
The developers of Candy Crush Saga and Farm Heroes Saga have trademarked the word “Candy” in relation to videogames. That is clearly a bit silly – almost to the degree of Tim Langdell’s famously spurious and litigious pursuit of anyone – any small studio, at least – who used the word “Edge” in their game title.
It makes a degree more sense for them to be trying to protect the word “Saga” because at least that commonly used word is utilised in both of their colourful tap-a-thon cash-generators. A degree more sense, perhaps, but it’s still unfortunate that they feel the need to try to lay claim to such a common word in such an aggressive manner.
The news that King is blocking The Banner Saga’s trademark application (for the full game title) isn’t as surprising as I wish it was. Despite the beautiful RPG working under that name for a couple of years as it was developed, King is going after Stoic to prevent them using the word because they think it will weaken their case against other people using “Saga” in their commercial products.
Now, it should be noted that this is not uncommon. You might remember Bethesda’s equally risible attempt to stop Mojang from using “Scrolls” on the grounds that it erodes their ability to maintain their “The Elder Scrolls” property. It’s an unfortunate side-effect of the UK and US’ convoluted and archaic copyright laws. But that doesn’t make it any less egregious.
King themselves even admit (via GI.biz) that they don’t really want The Banner Saga to stop using the name. They’re only going after Stoic’s game in order to prevent the “real copy cats” from claiming use of that commonly used word in their game title.
Incidentally, use of the word “Crush” isn’t being chased by King, presumably because that trademark is owned by Sega. We expect them to aggressively enforce their copyright against King’s brightly-coloured casual puzzler immediately…