UPDATE #1: Due to some nice advice from contributing editor Sarah Katz, I’ve updated this post concerning the legal terminology. This is actually a trademark dispute, which I mistakenly called a copyright dispute.

UPDATE #2: Alex Thomas of Stoic LLC rebuts King’s confusing reply to the controversy. (via VentureBeat)

“Two years ago, the three of us at Stoic set out to make an epic viking game: The Banner Saga,” Stoic co-founder Alex Thomas said in a statement. “We did, and people loved it, so we’re making another one. We won’t make a viking saga without the word Saga, and we don’t appreciate anyone telling us we can’t. King.com claims they’re not attempting to prevent us from using The Banner Saga, and yet their legal opposition to our trademark filing remains. We’re humbled by the outpouring of support and honored to have others stand with us for the right to their own Saga. We just want to make great games.”

King, the makers of the megahit mobile game Candy Crush, have filed a trademark complaint again Stoic, the developers of the indie The Banner Saga, claiming that players will confuse Stoic’s recently released tactical strategy game with their point and click money vacuums. Since you can’t copyright a title, you have to trademark it. Apparently, King thinks you are all idiots and your tiny brains will just get all confuzzled if there’s more than one game with the word “Candy” or “Saga” in it. Hey, quick question, did you even know that the full title of Candy Crush is actually Candy Crush Saga? Probably not.

Since their britches are all in a bunch, they’ve filed what’s called a “Notice of Opposition” against Stoic LLC, which can be found here. Be warned, it’s a big, dense legal document, so I’ll do you a solid and break it down for you. Page 8 of  32 is where it gets juicy.

King’s Claims

  • King has filed trademarks for lots of games with the word “Saga” in them, such as Puzzle Saga, Candy Crush Saga, Bubblewitch Saga, Farm Heroes Saga, and Dickish Behavior Saga. (I made that last one up.)
  • Stoic LLC has created a game with the word “saga” in it. *shocked gasp*
  • Those mean, nasty indie devs are trying to ride our gilded coattails into the stratosphere.
  • They did these because they are jealous jerks and ugly stupidheads. Intentionally and deceptively did this, your Honor! They’re lying liars! Those assbutts! Get them!
the banner saga

“STOIC LLC, YOU MONSTERS!”

This is a David and Goliath story worthy of a Lifetime Original Movie starring Sally Field and the ghost of Paul Newman. They would probably play a scrappy blue-collar duo with quirks and funny rapport, probably with dog that farts too much. It’s a struggle that’s almost tailormade for a slightly bored Friday night audience who’s not terribly politically literate so they can root for the populist underdog against the moustache twirling corporate villains, but in this instance, sometimes the cliche has a nugget of truth in it.

Recently, the video game blog Kotaku reached out to King for a response. They received this perplexing statement in return:

“We do not have any concerns that Banner Saga is trying build on our brand or our content,” a spokesperson for King, the makers of Candy Crush Saga, told Kotaku. “However, like any prudent company, we need to take all appropriate steps to protect our IP, both now and in the future.

So… you’re not going after The Banner Saga? Then why bother filing a complaint at all against one particular game? King, I take it you’ll be dropping your ridiculous objection relatively soon, then? A small studio like Scion LLC has very little recourse against a strongarm tactic like this from a game that earns almost $1 million per day. If it moves forward to say, a large legal dispute, Scion LLC will most likely be forced to settle (pay King money they didn’t earn) or change the name of their game, similar to the Mojang/Bethesda battle over the right to the name “Scrolls”. I have no qualms over developers going after legitimate trademark infringement for monetary gain. What I do have a problem with is litigious assholes who want to squash a tiny game studio for what seems like a laugh.