Twas the day after Boxing Day, when all through the land
No one could be stirred from Beatles Rock Band
When all of a sudden, with a rap at the door
The Candy Crush lot cried: ‘Infringed trademark law!’
On December 27, 2013, Candy Crush Saga creators King filed a ‘Notice of Opposition’ with the US Patent and Trademark Office. The 32 page document alleged that The Banner Saga’s name, which references Norse mythology, presented a “likelihood of confusion in the marketplace” – and might therefore cause “mistake and deception” among “purchasers and potential purchasers”.
King aren’t claiming monetary compensation. Instead, they’re hoping to block an attempt by Stoic to trademark The Banner Saga, and subsequently force the three-man indie team to change the name of their tactical RPG.
King has a long history of appending their games’ names with the word ‘Saga’ that far predates Candy Crush. Bubble Saga, Bubble Witch Saga, Mahjong Saga, Puzzle Saga and Pyramid Saga are just a few of the titles they’ve trademarked. On that basis, the developers have argued that The Banner Saga’s title can be too easily confused with their backlog of thumb-operated puzzle games.
The notice reads: “Applicant’s THE BANNER SAGA mark is confusingly and deceptively similar to Opposer’s previously used SAGA Marks”. That word again – deception. The presumed good character of Stoic aside, it’s worth noting that The Banner Saga’s Kickstarter campaign ran through April 2012 – long before Candy Crush Saga reached critical App Store mass. I find it highly doubtful that even an ill-intentioned indie could have found any reason to deceive King’s far smaller playerbase before then.
The matter’s likely to get worse before it gets better. King are in the process of applying for a full trademark on the word ‘Saga’ in relation to videogames. Given that they’ve already successfully trademarked ‘Candy’ in the same context, it seems likely they’ll succeed.
In the last couple of days alone, however, awareness has been building. A petition for the US Patent and Trademark Office to prevent King trademarking ‘Saga’ has already garnered 3000 signatures. Indies are organising a Candy Jam – “because trademarking common names is ridiculous and because it gives us an occasion to make another gamejam”.
Public upset won’t put any legal pressure on King to leave Stoic alone. But The Banner Saga is a game about underdogs – ordinary people who stagger on under the worst of circumstances. What’s one more blow to bear?