It all started with an angry tweet on Sunday.
The previous Tuesday I released my slot machine game which I called “All Candy Casino Slots”. I just wanted to make a game with a fun theme. We all love candy.
That Sunday I got an email from Apple.com on behalf of King.com LTD, who own Candy Crush. This is what the email said:
On 1/15/2014, we received a notice from King.com Ltd that King.com Ltd believes the app listed below infringes their intellectual property rights. In particular, King.com Ltd believes you are infringing their trademark. Please see their comments below.
C. Developer: Benjamin Hsu
Provider: Benjamin Hsu
App Title: All Candy Casino Slots – Jewels Craze Connect: Big Blast Mania Land
Apple ID: 788815470
Comments from Complainant: We are the owners of CANDY, in the EU, US and elsewhere. The prominent use of our mark by this developer infringes our rights and is likely to lead to consumer confusion and damage to our brand. Please remove this app as soon as possible.
You can reach King.com Ltd through Sophie Hallstrom (email: firstname.lastname@example.org), copied on this email.
We look forward to receiving written assurance that your application does not infringe King.com Ltd’s rights, or that the parties are taking steps to promptly resolve the matter. Please keep us apprised of your progress.
Should you choose to remove your application, (for example, while you make any necessary changes) use the steps provided below.
This had to be a joke, right?
My initial reactions were disbelief, then anger. How could they own the word “candy”? It’s such a common word and the App Store is flooded with so many games with a candy theme and the word candy in the app name.
Candy Crush was not the first candy game. Remember Candyland?
Now they own the word and I can’t use it, nor can others?
I went to a couple Facebook groups I’m a member of with other app developers. I shared the emailed and ask what should I do.
Their reaction was the same as mine. How could they own the word? How could they even be approved for that trademark?
It was ridiculous for them to trademark the word candy.
After re-reading the email many times, it stated that my game led to “consumer confusion”. How? It looked nothing like it. I didn’t copy the candies in their game. There seem to be a gazillion candy games in the App Store. So were they just going after me or everyone else?
I replied back to the contact in the email and nicely stated that I did not not believe my app was causing any confusion. A search of the word “candy” in the App Store brought up a long list of candy themed app. In no way did I believe I was infringing on their trademark.
Got another lovely reply.
Thank you for your email.
As you will know, King.com Ltd develops and produces online, social and mobile games, including the hugely successful “Candy Crush Saga” game. In addition, King owns the trade mark CANDY (CTM 011538147), which covers for example “online gaming, interactive poker, online gambling services; casino services; casino services delivered via the Internet” in class 41.
Your use of CANDY SLOTS in your app icon uses our CANDY trade mark exactly, for identical goods, which amounts to trade mark infringement and is likely to lead to consumer confusion and damage to our brand. The addition of only the descriptive term “SLOTS” does nothing to lessen the likelihood of confusion. You will appreciate that we need to take action where our marks are being used without our consent, with the consequent risk of our marks becoming diluted or damaged in any way or consumers believing that the goods originate from or are otherwise endorsed or approved by us.
We understand that you might not have been aware that this was an infringement. Now that you are aware of your infringements, please amend the name of your App accordingly.
We are aware that there are many games on the app store with CANDY in the name, this is largely due to the popularity of our game Candy Crush Saga. We review each of these apps in turn and take action where necessary.
I hope this helps to answer your questions.
We reserve all rights.
That is absurd. Let’s do a side-by-side comparison.
The word CANDY is about as generic as can be. The candy lollipops aren’t even in their game.
What a bunch of idiots.
When I woke up, I checked my phone and saw I had lots of replies and retweets. In total, I had 41 retweets, which is the highest ever for me.
One reply was from Jim who is the editor of a website called Gamezebo.com. I had never heard of it before. He wanted me to email him and he had some questions about the whole situation.
Within an hour of emailing him back, the story was live on his website.
I went to my Get Busy Living Facebook page to vent my frustrations of this situation. Deacon Bradley from LIfe Stoked reminded me of a story about a guy last year that got a cease and desist letter from Starbucks. The reason he got the letter was pretty ridiculous, but his response to them was even better. His story went viral.
That gave me an idea. Both stories had similarities. Billion dollar companies sending out ridiculous cease and desist letters to little guys, who had no intent to cause problems in the first place.
Candy Crush was the most popular game of 2013. Most everyone who owns a smartphone knows of the game. Maybe if I wrote a reply in a similar style, this story could get some attention. Just so people would know what they were doing. Otherwise, this story would just be known in the gaming and app world.
Most of the morning and afternoon I wrote a letter. I thought it was pretty funny, but I don’t know if my sarcasm came through.
I thought the best place to share it was on Reddit. The title came naturally to me, “I can’t use the word Candy Crush in my game nor anyone else. Thank you Candy Crush.”
I pasted the emails I received from King.com and then the e-mail I wrote as my final reply to them. Basically a big middle finger to them.
During the day people were up voting it and leaving comments. The majority of their reactions were the same. Some suggested get a lawyer. Some went into detail about trademark law.
Monday afternoon a writer from Forbes had written about the story referencing the Gamezebo article! That was pretty big. My name was mentioned, which was really cool.
I did a Google News search of my name and noticed other websites were talking about it. Websites like Time, LA Times, Entrepreneur, and Mashable. Wow!
I went to bed that night thinking this was the peak of the coverage. Getting interviewed about it in the morning, then having Forbes write about let a lot of people know about this story.
It wasn’t looking very good for King.com. They were the bad guys.
I woke up with a bad headache.
My wife was in the mood to go IHOP to have some all-you-can-eat pancakes. We were there a couple weeks ago, but she was craving it again. I had a headache, but I thought why not. She wanted to go and a happy wife is a happy life. I’ll just take a couple Advil and hopefully feel better.
After getting some food, I took Advil. It did not go away. In fact it got worse. When we got home, I immediately went back to sleep. I hoped that would help make me feel better.
I slept at least an hour when I heard my phone vibrate. I picked it up and noticed a phone number from California I did not recognize. Usually I’ll Google the number just to see what comes up. Before I could do that, I got a voicemail notification.
It was a reporter from the San Jose Mercury. He wanted to get me on the phone and ask me some questions. Home of Silicon Valley. Wow!
So what did I do?
I tried to go back to sleep. Just wasn’t ready to wake up yet. I tried for about 10 minutes but couldn’t sleep anymore.
I went to my computer first to check my email and was surprised by what I saw. Emails from reporters who wanted to talk to me. What in the world was going on? I wondered if my story was featured somewhere else. Maybe my Reddit post made the front page?
I quickly checked and while it has 642 up votes and 300 comments, it wasn’t on the front page. Still was getting a lot of attention though.
I called each back, but had to leave voicemails.
Then I got an email with the word URGENT in it.
It was from someone at Udemy.com where I have my app development course. It was titled “Hello – Urgent Interview Request with Fox Business”.
I hope this email finds you well. I recently joined the Udemy team as their communications lead.
I just received a request by the producer of FOX Business for a LIVE 4-6 minute interview with you today between 5pm-6pm EST.
The show is called MONEY with Melissa Francis.
The interview will be in regard to the Candy trademark ruling.
If you would be interested in chatting with the show, please let me know as soon as you can so we can get you on air!
You can call me at xxx-xxx-xxxx if you’d like as well.
Look forward to hearing from you.
Live interview? Today? This is huge!
The very first thought that came to my mind was…get a haircut!
Since last year, my wife has been using clippers to cut my hair. We did it to save money and I’ve been keeping it short cause it’s so easy to take care. When it’s really short, it’s good for about two weeks, but then after that starts to get out of control. It had been about 4 weeks since my last haircut, so it was bad.
If I was going to be on live TV, I needed a haircut now! I told my wife about the email and told her to get ready. It was 2:31pm.
I called the contact at Udemy back right away and said I was definitely interested. I left her my phone number and she said she would pass it to the producer.
About 3:00pm, I noticed another email but this time was sent through my contact form at Photo365app.com. This time it was the FOX Business producer looking for me.
I’m a producer at Fox Business and wanted to see if Benny Hsu is available for a live 4-6 minute interview in the 5-6pm ET hour. Please let me know if possible. Thanks!
I replied back w/ my phone number and to call me with more details.
In the meantime, it was time for my haircut. Twice during the haircut I had to stop to talk to a reporter. So I had this incomplete haircut, hair all over the place, and answering questions about the story. Glad it was just phone interviews.
The producer from FOX emailed me back. She said the interview would actually be for tomorrow. Whew. Much better. Didn’t have to rush. She also wanted me to give her some talking points. I had no idea what they were. I had to Google it and replied back with some talking points, which I hoped were right.
She replied back saying that was perfect and she would have more details for me after their 11am editorial meeting tomorrow.
To be honest, I had never heard of the show that wanted to interview me. I Googled “Money with Melissa Francis” just to have an idea. I realized it was around 5:30pm so the show was on live now. I turned on the TV and just watched to see what it was like.
The host Melissa seemed nice. Fast paced show. She was interviewing a woman about a minimum wage story. I was thinking that was going to be me tomorrow. Weird.
After the show ended at 6pm, I got a call from the FOX Business producer.
Really nice woman. Said they were definitely interested in an interview with me. They couldn’t believe the word candy had been trademarked. I asked where the interview would be held. She’d have to check where I could go locally and said a car could pick me up if needed.
What a day. A day I’ll never forget. I thought yesterday getting mentioned on a bunch of websites including Forbes was the peak, but this definitely beat that.
Here are just a few of articles. Each of them I talked to on the phone.
The second best part of the day was my headache went away after my nap. I felt like million bucks.
Wednesday – Day of the Interview
Today was the big day. Besides the interview, it was almost my wife’s birthday.
After 11:00 am, I got the update about the interview. My segment would be on at 5:40pm. There would also be a lawyer on during the segment. I got the address of the local video studio where I’d be filmed. It was less than 10 minutes from my house so I didn’t need car to pick me up.
I got an email in the afternoon from another FOX producer who would be in charge of the actual segment. She has some questions for me like why don’t I fight and how I do I feel. She also asked me if I had a bio and if not how did I want to be introduced. I told her I am a blogger and app developer. I mentioned my other apps, Photo 365 and Gratitude 365. I said those are my two main apps, but it was okay if it wasn’t mentioned.
I had to be at the studio by 5:10pm. I wanted to wear my Get Busy Living t-shirt, but when I asked the producer what I should wear, she said maybe not a t-shirt.
The studio where I went is owned by a company that does all kinds of video production such as commercials and news related stories.
We entered and met the owner of the studio and a makeup lady. First thing was get makeup. Then she led me into the very dark studio except for four bright lights.
There was a desk, chair, and background with the Jacksonville skyline. There was still about 20 minutes before going live. She had to test my mic level, and get the earpiece set up so I could hear the host.
I got nervous because the earpiece volume was not that loud. The first time she put it in, i could barely hear someone from FOX talking to me. Almost like a whisper. I asked how loud it should be and she said pretty loud.
So she switched earpieces to try again. Same thing. I got worried that the audio wouldn’t get fixed in time. On the fourth attempt, it was a tiny bit better. It wasn’t loud as if someone was standing next to me talking in a normal voice. The volume was like if you were watching TV with the volume on the lowest volume before going to mute.
I had to really focus to make sure I heard everything.
I had no idea when I was going live. I knew the producer said 5:40pm, but I didn’t see a clock and I wasn’t wearing a watch.
I could hear the host, Melissa Francis, talking and finishing up a story on the air, and then she began to talk about Candy Crush. I was thinking this was just a teaser and that she would say the story would be coming up right after this commercial.
Instead she went right into the segment! I looked into the camera and smiled. I sat as still as possible so my earpiece wouldn’t move. I adjusted it so that I could hear better. If it was too deep in my ear, I could hear nothing. I had to leave it a little loose.
There was no video monitor in the studio so I had no idea that when I was talking a video of my game and Candy Crush was playing. I only knew when she mentioned it.
When she said that my game kinda looks similar, I was thinking “Really?? Seriously?”
I had to think quick though. I just smiled and politely disagreed with her. I’m just glad to hear the lawyer was on my side.
Before I knew it, it was over. It went by so fast. I could finally relax. Despite worrying about the volume in my ear piece, I heard everything well enough. It felt like being on a roller coaster. Nervous at the beginning, but at the end, I was ready to get back on the ride again.
I was just curious how it looked on TV. When we got in the car, I turned my phone back on and got texts and tweets about it. Positive feedback so far. Good to hear.
I recorded the show and watched it right away when we got home. I was more nervous watching it than I was doing the actual interview.
Overall I didn’t look too bad. I didn’t do weird things on camera with my face. I looked into the camera. I smiled. I didn’t talk too fast. I didn’t ramble on too long.
Not too bad for my first time!
I got on Facebook and had messages and comments from many of you. Thank you all!
The segment producer e-mailed me saying I was great and she hoped to bring me back on if they talk about apps again. I would love that.
When I got the email, I assumed they would now being going after every game in the App store with the word “candy”. If they were making me change, they better do it for others.
Throughout this whole ordeal, I never read about another game getting the same email as mine. I thought that was strange. Why go after mine?
In the past, some had gotten emails for using the words “candy crush” or making their icon too similar to theirs. If I was doing that, I’d understand I was going to far.
Why just target me then? I don’t see any confusion in my game. I look at the App Store now and see many other games more close to theirs than mine. I understand they have a brand to protect, but protect it when someone is clearly copying.
A lot of people asked me how all this helped for my game. Did I see a huge increase in downloads?
Actually no. I wasn’t too upset about that though. I figured that just seeing the game’s screenshots was enough for many people. They didn’t need to download it.
The exposure I got was priceless though. I’d take that over a boost in downloads.
There have been many people online who did some research about trademark laws and what can be done. While I’m not happy that I have to remove the word “candy”, it’s not going to affect my game. My game has only been out a week. If my game was making five figures every month, and having the word candy was vital to its success, I’d get a lawyer and fight it.
I know I’ll be upset after changing the name of my game and still see a bunch of old and new games in the App Store with candy in the icon and candy in the name. Again, not sure why mine was singled out.
I disagree with what they are doing and what they think, but I don’t want to spend much more time dealing with it. I want to put more attention back to my new podcast, making more games, writing, and other goals I have for the year.
I’m just glad this story spread. This whole thing has now turned into a PR nightmare for King. Awesome.
Another story about their company came out a couple days after my interview. Basically they wanted to block a company from using the word “saga”. Again they claim it would cause consumer confusion despite the other game is not even similar in the least bit. So stupid. It’s comparing apples to oranges. Makes them look worse.
Then a story came out from a developer about how King copied their game back in 2009 after a deal fell through to create it for them. He brought up the story after reading about my story. How ironic that King did the thing that they are trying to stop other people doing. Now King has pulled the game completely, which pretty much admits guilt.
I know they picked on me because they knew I’m a little guy. Thanks to the power of social media, the internet, and traditional media, the word got out. They’ve ruined their reputation.
In the end, by picking on me it turned out to be pretty sweet and not such a sweet situation for them.