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I'm being sued for 'copying game play' ?!


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#1 KoMaXX   Members   -  Reputation: 276

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 07:51 AM

Hi!

 

I've recently published a small (but fun ;) ) iOS game, Flipz:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/flipz/id775988938?mt=8

 

I basically wrote it as a birthday gift for my father since I never know what to give him. The game principle is not completely unique but at least has some unique features not seen in any other games (at least as far as I know).

 

Now, for the scary part: I recently received a cease-and-desist email in broken English from the publisher of the following game:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/block-puzzle-fit-match-magnet/id738268654?mt=8

 

The email basically states that I copied their game illegally, that I should remove my game immediately from the app store and pay "lawyer fees" of 500$.

 

What should I do now?? Granted, the games share a bit of gameplay but look nothing like each other and I do have some unique features in it. Should I remove my game and pay as requested? Should I lawyer up and refute the claim?

 

My game has only like 200 downloads, so I don't know how I even got a target :<

 

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated!


Go on, feed your brain: http://poroba.com/flip/flipz.php


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#2 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 9512

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 08:25 AM

What should I do now??


Consult an attorney. There's a list of game attorneys stickied to this forum.
-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#3 ambershee   Members   -  Reputation: 524

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 08:38 AM

I doubt they have a leg to stand on, but nevertheless, consult an attorney.

 

To be honest, it just sounds like they're trying to extort money; I doubt they'd follow through with an actual legal claim.



#4 KoMaXX   Members   -  Reputation: 276

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 08:41 AM

Thanks Tom!

 

I'm not expecting to make any money with Flipz (it was just a birthday gift!) and I would prefer not to spend any money on this either...

 

Is there actually grounds for a the cease-and-desist letter?

 

If, I'll have to take down the game, fine (but sad) - but I'd rather not pay :[


Go on, feed your brain: http://poroba.com/flip/flipz.php


#5 samoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4684

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 09:03 AM

"Broken english, weird claim, demands money", that already fulfills 3 out of 4 criteria on the scam-o-matic scale. Did they say "hurry, or it will get more expensive" too?

Korean company, one of the poorest websites I've seen in my life... are you sure that the C&D letter comes from a lawyer at all? Seems rather unlikely that this is a serious claim.

 

But really, if you want to be safe, you have no option than lawyer up (and even then you're not safe...). Hopefully you got a legal cost insurance, since obviously Sang Ki Kwon isn't going to refund your expenses (between 10 and 190 Euros for a first counselling). Most likely you'll get "Well, it depends..." anyway, but not for free.

 

Personally I'd just ignore that guy, but that's me. He published his game a month before you published yours, so if it's reasonable to expect you worked on it for over a month (not doing it as a full-time job), it seems a tough challenge having copied any of it. For me, that would be raising a middle finger (especially since I'm not aware of any possibility for a guy in Korea to enforce such a claim in Bavaria).



#6 KoMaXX   Members   -  Reputation: 276

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 09:08 AM

Thank you samoth.

 

Since I've settled down now a bit, I also feel like just ignoring it... Or not. D*mn, games were supposed to be about fun >_<

 

However, for now, I'll just reach out to that developer of "block puzzle" and ask him directly what's going on there...

 

And no, I don't have legal cost insurance - and wouldn't have dreamed of needing it for this!


Edited by KoMaXX, 14 February 2014 - 09:09 AM.

Go on, feed your brain: http://poroba.com/flip/flipz.php


#7 Buster2000   Members   -  Reputation: 1607

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 09:40 AM

If you have released this on the Apple app store then Apple have a system in place for protecting iOS developers.   If the other developer wants you pull your game then they need to contact Apple and not send you a C&D.  Your app is published by Apple and is sold in apples store if he wants your app removed he needs to tell Apple and then apple will send you an email either telling you to change something or that they are going to pull your app.

Apple have whole teams of lawyers in place who deal with things like this every day on behalf of its app developers who cannot always get a lawyer.


Edited by Buster2000, 14 February 2014 - 09:41 AM.


#8 KoMaXX   Members   -  Reputation: 276

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 09:49 AM


Your app is published by Apple and is sold in apples store

 

Haven't thought of that! Thank you very much, I'll try to reach Apple then!


Go on, feed your brain: http://poroba.com/flip/flipz.php


#9 FLeBlanc   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3101

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 10:00 AM

However, for now, I'll just reach out to that developer of "block puzzle" and ask him directly what's going on there...


IANAL and all that, but don't do this. Every contact with this guy should be through your lawyer, for your own protection. Clearly "what's going on there" is that he hopes to intimidate you, extort you for a little bit of cash, and remove a competitor. Contacting him won't solve anything, and could in fact cause potential complications if/when it does go to court.

#10 KoMaXX   Members   -  Reputation: 276

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 10:06 AM

FLeBlanc,

... maybe you're right. I'm a "just let's sit down and work this out" guy but perhaps not the route to go here :/ Thanks. 

 

I'll lawyer up then.


Go on, feed your brain: http://poroba.com/flip/flipz.php


#11 HScottH   Members   -  Reputation: 508

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 11:03 AM

I would ignore them, and consult an attorney only if it can be done for free.  If they do sue (highly unlikely), you could get an attorney then, but they will still have to prove damages, and with that download number, that's going to be very hard.



#12 samoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4684

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 11:24 AM

consult an attorney only if it can be done for free.
Not possible in KoMaXX's country of residence. The lawyer mafia has made sure of regulating that.

 

Not only are rates regulated by the chamber, but it's even strictly illegal for a lawyer to counsel you for free (minimum fee for counselling a private person is 10€, but it depends on the amount of dispute and on the lawyer's greed -- if they say they cannot determine the amount of dispute reliably, they may just charge an hourly rate, up to 190€ for a private person).



#13 aregee   Members   -  Reputation: 1016

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 01:03 PM

"Broken english, weird claim, demands money", that already fulfills 3 out of 4 criteria on the scam-o-matic scale. Did they say "hurry, or it will get more expensive" too?

Korean company, one of the poorest websites I've seen in my life... are you sure that the C&D letter comes from a lawyer at all? Seems rather unlikely that this is a serious claim.

 

This!  Sounds like a classical scam.  Are you even sure the letter even comes from that game company, not someone who just picked two similar games to make a profit?  Is the bank account you are supposed to "send $500" maybe not someone else trying to earn a few bucks?  The wording sounds an awful lot like a classical fraud to me.



#14 Servant of the Lord   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 18498

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 02:54 PM

<I am not a lawyer>

Gameplay can't be copyrighted anyway, as much as the developers of Bejeweled and Tetris would like it.
Only the content can be copyrighted (names, visuals, sounds, actual numbers for various things, etc...). Gameplay is an idea, much like common story elements are ideas. Lucas Arts (Star Wars) can't sue just because someone makes a space movie where the bad guy is really the good guy's father. They can sue if you name the bad guy Darth Vadar or make him look like Darth Vadar.

Nobody can sue over match-three or falling-block games, but they can sue if you name the game Tetris or make the art identical.
The creators of Dungeons and Dragons can't sue every RPG in existence because it uses the same types of game mechanics, but they can sue if the RPG steals the exact D&D algorithms and formulas and rule sets.

Sounds like baloney. Ofcourse, anyone can sue anyone for anything regardless of the law, and lawsuits still cost you money before the judge informs the person suing that they are complete idiots. However, lawsuits still costs money from the person filing the lawsuit as well.

I'd personally ignore it, but there's always the chance he'll sue anyway - while he wouldn't win the lawsuit, it might be a nuisance to you.

<I am not a lawyer>

By the way, your game infringes my game, because your game was made out of pixels and uses colors and maybe has sound, and my game also has artwork and sound and uses player input to move things. Please remove your game and pay me 132$ dollarz! I accept cash, check, bitcoin, raw cookie dough, and Dr Pepper as legal tender.


It's perfectly fine to abbreviate my username to 'Servant' rather than copy+pasting it all the time.
All glory be to the Man at the right hand... On David's throne the King will reign, and the Government will rest upon His shoulders. All the earth will see the salvation of God.
Of Stranger Flames - [indie turn-based rpg set in a para-historical French colony] | Indie RPG development journal

[Fly with me on Twitter] [Google+] [My broken website]

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#15 samoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4684

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 03:35 PM

Gameplay can't be copyrighted anyway, as much as the developers of Bejeweled and Tetris would like it. Only the content can be copyrighted (names, visuals, sounds, actual numbers for various things, etc...
Well that's not entirely true. Gameplay can't be copyrighted, yes. But at least in the USA it can be patented, as Sega has proven (think Crazy Taxi). Even if you live outside the USA and have no legal presence in the USA at all, bogus US patents can be used to drag you to court as Jagex had the pleasure to find out.

 

Further, in many jurisdictions including the EU being a plagiator is not only a matter of C&D but of committing a felony, and there are very non-neglegible penalties (6-digit fees) if you are found guilty of selling plagiates.  This, among other things, is what e.g. Tetris uses very successfully to their advantage.

 

However, it is highly unlikely that

  1. this claim is legitimate at all (it looks and smells like scam, 90% likely it is a scam... and if it is not, it must be a pretty dumb person)
  2. the Flipz game would pass as "plagiate", it's not nearly similar enough for that in my opinion
  3. anyone could seriously believe that the idea or design was "stolen", seeing how both games were released shortly after the other
  4. that Korean guy could enforce a claim, even if a judge in Korea deemed it valid (the "we give a fark about your laws, and our laws apply in your country, too" thing is pretty much unique to the USA).

Of course the only way to know for sure is to wait 6 months and see... but I'm rather optimistic that it will go up in smoke.



#16 Servant of the Lord   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 18498

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 04:58 PM

Well that's not entirely true. Gameplay can't be copyrighted, yes. But at least in the USA it can be patented, as Sega has proven (think Crazy Taxi).

Good point, I had forgotten about that lawsuit. Though it sounds like it might've been justified, since even before the lawsuit, people noted strong similarities. "Road Rage features similar game play, to the point where some reviews commented negatively on the parallels." - IGN
In the sense that it's a clone (according to the reviewers, not merely the lawsuit), and a trashy one at that (according to the reviews), SEGA probably should have sued - but I haven't personally compared the two games myself, so I'm not sure.

What comes to my mind was the copyright lawsuit against 6wave's YetiTown game (an blatant clone of SpryFox's TripleTown) - thankfully, because 6waves copied actual data values, visual layouts, and sometimes even wording, 6waves quickly settled and actually gave over the rights to the clone to SpryFox.


It's perfectly fine to abbreviate my username to 'Servant' rather than copy+pasting it all the time.
All glory be to the Man at the right hand... On David's throne the King will reign, and the Government will rest upon His shoulders. All the earth will see the salvation of God.
Of Stranger Flames - [indie turn-based rpg set in a para-historical French colony] | Indie RPG development journal

[Fly with me on Twitter] [Google+] [My broken website]

[Need web hosting? I personally like A Small Orange]


#17 Bregma   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4986

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 05:04 PM


he email basically states that I copied their game illegally, that I should remove my game immediately from the app store and pay "lawyer fees" of 500$.

Does a lawyer that charges that little even for photocopying even exist?


Stephen M. Webb
Professional Free Software Developer

#18 Nypyren   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4167

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 05:26 PM

I'm not a lawyer, but I ignore *everything* as spam, phishing, or a scam until proven otherwise.


Edited by Nypyren, 14 February 2014 - 05:26 PM.


#19 frob   Moderators   -  Reputation: 20251

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 07:41 PM

Since he already said he was going to get a lawyer, then the important part is taken care of.

The legal process is rather long. He got a C&D order, which is right near the very beginning of the process.


The thing is, from the business perspective, when you find somebody doing something very similar to what you are doing it is frequently the best decision to send a C&D order.

Businesses are required to defend their turf. If they have a pattern of not protecting their names, marks, logos, designs, characters, implementations, color palettes, audio themes, and basically everything else, the business runs the very real risk of losing rights to things they made.

It is always possible this was from a scammer. There are scammers who send false C&D letters trying to scare people into complying. But it is also possible it is from a real business defending their turf. There are several signs: was a signature and proof of delivery required, was it sent by actual lawyers, and do they cite actual law in the violations? Some scammers just try to scare you and are nobodies, some scammers are very serious aggressive lawyers who don't think of themselves as scammers, and who are often able to extract large sums of money from multi-national corporations. Occasionally this group of people are able to convince multiple judges that their demands are real before a judge and appeal eventually declares them a scam. Many in that group feel they are doing what is right, even when popular culture disagrees.


You NEVER ignore a C&D letter. Deciding exactly how to reply, or to not reply, is a discussion best held with a competent lawyer. A wrong response, either to a real legal threat or to a scammer, can cost fortunes.

It is a part of doing business, and by virtue of putting a product on the market you are in business.
Check out my personal indie blog at bryanwagstaff.com.

#20 samoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4684

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Posted 15 February 2014 - 06:31 AM

The legal process is rather long. He got a C&D order, which is right near the very beginning of the process.

Well, no. He got an email from some unknown guy which alleges some claim and alleges some lawyer costs. That isn't quite the same thing.

 

If you get a C&D order, you get it via certified mail (that is, on paper), and you get an invoice for the attorney's fees with the letter along with a threat of legal proceedings if you do not comply within 14 days (or a similar time period).


Edited by samoth, 15 February 2014 - 06:38 AM.





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