Is King, the Candy Crush Creator, Taking It a Step Too Far?

POSTED BY Nicole Cocozza

Everyone seems to be addicted to the popular game, Candy Crush Saga (“Candy Crush”). King.com Ltd. (“King”) is the creator of the trendy game that has captured an audience of all ages since the release of the game in April of 2012. The game can be accessed on Facebook or on any smartphone by downloading the app. The goal of the game is to match three candies on a game board filled with different colored candies, which may contain some obstacles, in order to get to the next level. Over the past year, Candy Crush had over 90 million daily players, who spent over $1.5 billion last year. King’s number one selling game has led the company to attempt to protect its intellectual property rights by filing an application to register the terms “candy” and “saga” as a trademark in the United States.

The filing of the application by King to protect the words “candy” and saga” has led to an uproar in the gaming community. King wants the trademark to be approved in a broad range of categories such as: software, entertainment, clothing and accessories. The International Game Developers Association said in a blog that King’s filing was “overreaching” and stood “in the opposition to the values of openness and co-operation we support industry wide.” However, King responds through a letter that there is nothing unusual in seeking to register a commonly used word as a trademark, citing registrations by others for such words as “Time,” “Apple,” “Money,” and “Sun.[1]“ Should Candy Crush be able to receive the same protection over such simplistic words?

The purpose of a trademark is to provide protection to a recognizable sign, design, or expression in order to identify a specific product or service from others. The purpose of a trademark makes the debate over whether King is overreaching its power by filing for trademark protection not a simple problem to solve. Candy Crush has had a significant amount of success over the past two years and is still continuing to prosper. King is aware that it is not attempting to control the word “candy,” but rather is trying to prevent others from taking advantage of the company’s success.

The idea of King applying for an application to protect “candy” and “saga” does not seem unrealistic. Apple was successful when it filed a trademark for the word “Apple.” “Candy”, like “Apple,” is a successful product and is continuing to be successful in the market today. Also, future lawsuits may arise and without trademark protection, King will be at a huge risk. So, why shouldn’t Candy Crush be able to protect words like “candy” and “saga?” Well, registering the term “candy” and “saga” could lead to a monopoly in the gaming world. The purpose of an open market is to allow for businesses to be creative and innovative in developing games, competing for market share with other companies. Competition is protected across most industries and highly valued in order to encourage business growth and reasonable pricing.

Overall, the filing by King to register the term “candy” and “saga” as a U.S. trademark has led to a heated debate in the gaming world. The words “candy” and “saga” are common words used everyday and are similar to words that already have trademarks such as “Times” and “Apple.” The idea of King being successful in registering the two terms invokes fear in gaming competitors. No matter the outcome of King’s trademark attempt, Candy Crush will still remain addictive to its players.

[1] See An Open Letter On Intellectual Property (Jan. 27 2014) archived at http://perma.cc/NGT6-VM93 (explaining King’s intellectual property debate in applying for an application to protect the words “candy” and “saga”).

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The Misunderstood Hacker and the Violation of His Rights

POSTED BY Abner Pinedo

Many frown upon the term “hacker” in our society. Corporations view hackers as the enemies who pry into protected computer source codes by circumventing copyright protecting technologies. However, hackers don’t view themselves as the enemy, but more of a public necessity in society. Their hacks and circumventing acts have brought upon many great outcomes, such as increasing a music owner’s fair use. For example, iTunes Music Store in the near past used to forbid users from playing purchased music on other music players and devices, other than iTunes or iPods. Hackers retaliated by circumventing iTunes DRM and created programs that allowed a user who rightfully purchased a song to have the ability to use it on other players and devices—fair use. These hacks led iTunes to create continuous updates and eventually led to their defeat and compliance with what society was craving for. Without hacktivism, individuals who purchase music would not have the freedoms they desired. Hackers view source code as a form of freedom of speech and their hacker culture as something to be proud of. However, this is not what most people perceive and think of when they come across the idea of a hacker.

Recently, Federal Judge Winmill in an Idaho case decided to treat an employee in a suit malignantly by ignoring his privacy rights because he was deemed a hacker. Corey Thuen, previously employed by the Plaintiff, Battelle, is being charged for copyright infringement of the Plaintiff’s source code of a program named Sofia. After being dismissed by the Plaintiff, Corey opened his own company called Southfork and created a similar program which he planned to sell it as an open source program. The Plaintiff’s claimed that the evidence needed to prove their case was on Thuen’s hard drive and that it was crucial to their case to prove infringement.

This led the Plaintiffs towards an ex parte proceeding in order to gain the courts permission to acquire the hard drive. The Plaintiffs argued that it was necessary to obtain the hard drive in such a manner because the Defendant is a hacker with the ability to make the evidence vanish. The Court viewed the Plaintiff’s claims favorably due to the Defendant’s self proclamation of being a hacker on his own company website. The decision that followed was the copying of the Defendant’s hard drive. The Court rationale was that a hacker was a bad individual who had the ability to destroy and alter the evidence on his own hard drive, thus the action was warranted in this case.

The Courts rationale leads to bias and stereotype that needs to be altered to fairly decide cases dealing with hackers. These stereotypes will only be broken if society becomes educated on hacker culture and principals. Further, Courts should view all the facts and circumstances before allowing stereotypes and hyperbole to take control of a Court’s decisions. A central key in this case was that the Judge did not understand that there was a non-negative meaning for the term hacker. The copying of an individual’s hard drive is seen as a huge invasion of privacy that should not be taken lightly. Many Courts have struggled with this issue regarding hard drive copying, but this Idaho Judge has taken the emotional short-cut without verifying all the facts and simply took the Defendant’s online self hacker proclamation as a valid claim.

The Excuse: “I’m Only Stealing a Trade Secret to Enhance My Career”

POSTED BY Nicole Cocozza

Everyone knows the purpose of a secret.  A secret is something that is meant to be private and not shared with others.  A promise is made between two or more people to keep a secret and not to share it with others.  However, promises to keep a secret are broken everyday.  In the real world, when a trade secret is shared with people who are not part of the pact, criminal consequences will result.

In United States of America v. Jin[1], the defendant was charged with theft of trade secrets and economic espionage, which are both offenses under the Economic Espionage Act.[2]  Jin, the defendant, is a naturalized American citizen of Chinese origin.  Jin worked for Motorola as a software engineer from 1998-2007.  As a software engineer, her primary focus was on a cellular telecommunications system manufactured and sold by Motorola called iDEN, an acronym for Integrated Digital Enhanced Network.

From 2006-2007, Jin took a medical leave from Motorola.  During this period she was living in China, where she acquired a job with Sun Kaisens.  Sun Kaisens develops telecommunications technology for the Chinese armed forces.  After a year, Jin returned to the United States and bought a one-way ticket to China.  Days before her departure to China, she downloaded thousands of internal Motorola documents, which all disclosed details on iDEN. On February 28, 2013, airport personnel stopped Jin, where they discovered the iDEN documents and $31,252 dollars in cash.  Jin’s excuse was that she planned to refresh her knowledge of the work she had done over the years for Motorola in order to prepare herself for continuing to build her career.

The excuse that Jin uses is clearly not believable.  The seventh circuit’s decision in affirming the four-year sentence imposed by a federal jury in Illinois proved that her excuse was flawed.   Anyone who takes a leave of absence from their job and then decides to return to the United States only to purchase a one-way ticket and steal thousands of documents clearly intends to use these top-secret documents as an economic advantage.  In order to find a criminal trade secret misappropriation, one must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an individual (1) used or intended to use the trade secret for the economic benefit of anyone other than the owner, and (2) knew or intended that use of the trade secret would injure the trade secret’s owner.[3]

By applying 18 U.S.C. 1832(a) to Jin’s excuse, one can conclude that Jen purposefully intended to use the iDEN documents for more than refreshing her knowledge.   These documents would have allowed her to gain an economic advantage in China by introducing the iDEN systems and allowing Chinese companies to create a new iDEN system to compete with Motorola.  Jin had ties to the Chinese military and more likely than not was going to hand over these iDEN documents to the government to hack the system.  The exploitation of Motorola’s iDEN documents would have had a negative impact on the future of the company.  Therefore, Jin clearly committed theft of trade secrets by stealing Motorola’s iDEN documents.  All in all, I can only hope Jin learned a valuable lesson, which is a secret is meant to stay a secret.


[1] See Jin, No. 12-3013, 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 19767 (7th Cir. 2013) (charging the defendant with theft of trade secrets and economic espionage).

[2] See 18 U.S.C. §§ 1831, 1832 (explaining the theft of trade secrets).

[3] See id. (stating that a finding of criminal trade secret misappropriation attaches only if one can prove beyond  a reasonable doubt).