The lights are on
Last February, Candy Crush Saga developer King.com filed paperwork with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for the word “candy.” On January 15, 2014, the trademark filing was approved, and King.com began enforcing its ownership.
The trademark office looks at the connection between a word and the product, and in the case of “candy” has determined that King’s association with the term is strong enough to warrant defense. However, this kind of trademark is considered “suggestive” rather than “descriptive.”
Grocery store chains can be used to demonstrate the differences. Kings (a suggestive trademark) is an upscale local chain of markets in New Jersey. The name connotes high quality, but doesn’t explain what the brand is. Stop and Shop (a descriptive trademark), on the other hand, is clearly a retail establishment.
Suggestive marks are harder to defend, because it’s conceivable that others could have come to the name on their own. Still, King is reaching out to app developers in an attempt to clear competing uses of the word “candy” out of the app stores.
According to Gamezebo, one of those developers is Benny Hsu, the developer of All Candy Casino Slots. Hsu tells the publication that King.com has accused him of trademark infringement. King.com could also apply legal pressure to those companies with “candy” games that released before Candy Crush Saga (April 12, 2012).
Our TakeIn my professional past, I was deeply involved with the naming of a new product. Our attorney told us bluntly that we could likely obtain a suggestive trademark for our first choice name, but we would have a costly fight ahead (with no guarantee of victory) should we ever need to defend it.
I suspect that King.com is banking on the “costly fight” scenario as deterrent, even to those unreasonably swept up in this trademark push. Even if a developer would win in court, it might not have the financial wherewithal to defend itself against King.com. Candy Crush Saga was the second highest grossing app on iOS devices in 2013. Money like that is hard to defend against.