Game title

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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Pandabox
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Game title

Post by Pandabox » Sat Oct 26, 2013 12:03 am

I'm in a situation with a big company with loads of money and need some advice.

Basically I have an app on the App Store called Pandapop (1 word). Michael Ritter from SGN (social gaming network) got in touch and tried to buy the name for the App Store. Despite them having so much money his biggest offer wouldn't even be enough to change the name in the app, for the art work etc so they said they will use panda pop (2 words). I said I can't do much if Apple allows it.

Next thing he told me actually there was someone else who had an online game which was available before my app and was called panda pop (2words). He said he was trying to find the owner I'm guessing to buy their name.

Now he says they own the name and have apparently owned it since 2008 on their mindjolt portal. He says doesn't matter if it is panda pop or pandapop they own it.

So now he says I can remove it or license the use of the name from them.

I really feel like I am being bullied, Can they do this to me ? Will he be able to get my app pulled ? They haven't even submitted their game and I'm not sure of the history of this panda pop online game but if they bought the name I am sure the gAme won't be the same one they use the name for.

Please any advise would be great.

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Sat Oct 26, 2013 9:14 am

Hi Pandabox,
As this is not really a copyright issue, I can only spend a short time on your question right now.
The normal manner in which the name of a product can be protected is to register it with the Intellectual Property Office as a trade mark. To date there are a number of UK and EU registered marks featuring the words pandapop(s) or panda pop but they are all for soft drinks or sweets, so there would be no problem about anyone registering the name for computer games (Classes 9 and 28 ). There is nothing to stop two different companies producing a similar product with the same name if the name is not registered in this way, except that one company could bring a civil action against the other for passing-off, that is to say, they consider the other company is trying to take advantage of the goodwill in their product by confusing the public as to the origin of the other product. Since you say that SGN do not yet have a game on the market, they cannot claim any goodwill exists and so could not bring a viable claim of passing-off to try and prevent your game going on to the market. From a business point of view, it would be remarkably silly to deliberately use the name of an existing game because of the inevitable confusion which will arise.
So that's the general legal situation.

I have not attempted to look into the provenance of the claim about the Mindjolt game with the similar name. If this really has existed since 2008, and SGN have bought the rights to it, then there might be a basis for a passing-off action against you, but initially this does sound like an attempt just to extract a licence fee from you. Such activities are well known in the world of patents, so it is by no means impossible that what he says is true. You may need to do a bit of investigation to discover the validity of his claim that such a game exists. For goodwill to exist in this other game, there must be some trace of its popularity in the same market place as you intend to market your game (ie via the Appstore or in the UK generally) so it shouldn't be hard to search it out.

As far as Apple's policies are concerned I understand that this topic is covered in their Software Developer's Kit App Review Guidelines but as you need a developer's account to view this document I haven't been able to look at it. However according to another site (idev.com) Apple's policy is:
What you'll need:
A name for your app (as it will appear on the App Store. Up to 255 bytes.) Your app name must be unique - you can't use the same name as another app on the App Store.
It is not clear from this how close two names have to be before Apple would not accept the second one. It would seem from this that you might have to approach Apple to resolve this issue if you wish to use their Appstore.

I hope this helps to point you in the right direction for resolving your problem.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

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