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Plugged In

King uses shady tactic to crush ‘candy’ competitor

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Candy Crush (left), CandySwipe (right) (Credit: King, Runsome)

There’s nothing sweet about King these days.

The creator of mega-hit Candy Crush Saga made waves in January by attempting to trademark the words ‘candy’ and ‘saga’ in an effort to protect its property from copycats. King CEO Riccardo Zacconi tried to calm the ensuing firestorm by issuing a statement explaining that their actions had nothing to do with hampering the rights of other game developers.

“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,” he wrote.

But according to independent developer Albert Ransom, that’s a bunch of hogwash.

Ransom is the founder of Runsome Apps and the creator of CandySwipe, a candy-based match-3 puzzler first released back in 2010. Ransom’s been quietly at war with King since the company tried to trademark Candy Crush Saga in 2012 -- two years after CandySwipe came out -- and while one would think that timeline would give Ransom the upper hand, King found a sneaky back door to get his game shut down.

In an open letter to King, Ransom revealed their plan: they bought the trademark of a little-known candy-themed game made by a different company. It’s called Candy Crusher, it was made by AIM Productions, and it was released in 2004. And while it doesn’t look much at all like Candy Crush Saga or CandySwipe (which, incidentally, are almost identical), that apparently gives King footing to wipe CandySwipe off the map.

King’s filing tries to explain their rationale.

“Runsome has argued that Candy Crush Saga is confusingly similar to CandySwipe,” it reads. “If true, CandySwipe is confusingly similar to Candy Crusher such that consumers will likely wrongly associate Runsome's CandySwipe game with King's prior Candy Crusher mark. This would damage King and supports King's proposed petition for cancellation of Runsome's registration.”

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Candy Crusher (Credit: King? AIM Productions? Who knows)

Dodgy logic, at best. Candy Crusher doesn’t look or play much at all like CandySwipe and Candy Crush Saga. If anything, it looks like Tetris (by the way, an image search for Candy Crusher yields – what else – Candy Crush Saga pictures).

The ordeal has exhausted Ransom, who conceded in an emotional rant.

“I have spent over three years working on this game as an independent app developer,” Ransom writes. “I learned how to code on my own after my mother passed and CandySwipe was my first and most successful game; it's my livelihood, and you are now attempting to take that away from me.  You have taken away the possibility of CandySwipe blossoming into what it has the potential of becoming. I have been quiet, not to exploit the situation, hoping that both sides could agree on a peaceful resolution. However, your move to buy a trademark for the sole purpose of getting away with infringing on the CandySwipe trademark and goodwill just sickens me.”

So much for wanting good game developers – both large and small – to protect the hard work they do and the games they create, eh King? Sickening, indeed.

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