King.com Ltd., the evil geniuses behind the highly addictive (to some) mobile, candy matching game Candy Crush Saga, has made headlines recently over its enforcement efforts for the company’s claimed trademarks, CANDY and SAGA. King already has a registered trademark and logo for CANDY CRUSH SAGA and a slew of other marks for similarly named games. Some observers have expressed shock and outrage over the implications of King’s pending registrations because they seem to claim ownership over relatively common words in a wide array of products beyond mobile apps or video games, including blank video cassettes, paper hats for use as clothing, amusement parks, and scriptwriting services, to name a few. Other observers have noted that King’s enforcement efforts have put a strain on seemingly unrelated video games that use the words CANDY or SAGA in their titles. Most notably, King has filed an opposition to Kickstarter darling Stoic Studios’ trademark application for its THE BANNER SAGA mark for Stoic’s Viking-themed, strategy role-playing game.
A review of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) records shows that both King’s CANDY and SAGA trademark applications are currently pending and have not been approved. Both applications were initially denied or partially denied by the USPTO examining attorneys that were assigned to review each mark. The examiner found CANDY to be “confusingly similar” to another registered mark KANDY in one of King’s claimed trademark categories. The examiner reviewing the SAGA application found it to be confusingly similar to identical already registered marks and denied the application completely. King was able to overcome these initial denials by submitting carefully crafted responses. The scope of the CANDY application was trimmed to satisfy the examiner’s comments. Interestingly enough, King argued that the SAGA mark was a weak mark because so many other video games use “saga” in their titles and that its application should therefore be approved despite the similarity of its marks with other registered marks. King’s CANDY trademark application has now been approved by the examiner, but it has not yet been registered. The mark will be published in the Official Gazette for 30 days where it may face opposition from parties that believe registration of the mark would damage them. SAGA on the other hand is currently suspended while awaiting proof of a foreign registration of that mark. As mentioned above, King has already started its enforcement efforts for both marks.
Despite all of the excitement over King’s CANDY and SAGA marks, King’s trademark applications and enforcement efforts are relatively common. King makes this point in its posted explanation of its approach to IP on its corporate site today. Whether you see King as a “trademark bully” or a smart protector of its valuable intellectual property, we on the e-TIP team thought the story was a great way to remind our blog readers about the importance of considering infringement risk and potential barriers to registration that could arise when selecting a mark. In our experience, getting an IP attorney on board at the early planning stages to help vet names and assess risk could avoid unnecessary expense in the future and hopefully keep you from embarking on your own Trademark Infringement Saga.