Some small independent developers on the Apple store have recently learnt all about trade marks the hard way.
On the 6th of February, 2013, King.com Ltd applied for a trade mark over the phrase “Candy”. On the 15th of January, 2014 the company was granted exclusive rights over the mark and it is already creating quite a stir in Apple’s App Store.
King.com Ltd are the creators of the very popular mobile game, Candy Crush Saga. King.com Ltd now holds the exlcusive use of the word Candy in certain products such as computer games, educational services in the field of computing, and clothing and apparel in the United States.
How Does This Happen?
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) (Trade Mark in the UK/Australia/New Zealand, Trade-Mark in Canada, Trademark in the U.S and Philippines) determines the suitability of applications based on a strict set of rules and time periods. To simplify a long and complex application process, the applicant must show their clear and identifiable mark to the USPTO (in this case, Candy), it must then show a clear and concise affiliation between the trade mark and certain goods or services (more information on the goods and services the Candy trade mark covers can be found here).
After the initial application, there is then a review process where the application and the proposed trade mark is published in a gazette, encouraging other interested parties to place submissions or objections to the application, and certain fees must be paid. Applications generally take about a year to finalise.
Computer games and applications in the United States, along with some clothing and apparel, will generally no longer be able to use the phrase Candy in their goods or services. Applications with the phrase Candy in them are already being contacted by King.com Ltd advising them to remove the infringement. This will also almost certainly affect developers that use Apple’s App Store worldwide.
Apple has previously banned the phrase Memory from its store due to a request by trade mark holder Ravensburger, a German game developer. Ravensburger sells, and hold the trade mark to, a board game called Memory in many European countries, but not to the U.S. Apple reportedly made the decision to ban the phrase in contemplation of the complications it would cause to their international App Store.