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Apple Orders Memory Game Developers To Stop Using 'Memory' In Names 409

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the slashdot-trademarks-news dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this bit of trademark absurdity from geek.com: "Ravensburger is a German gaming company that specializes in jigsaw puzzles, but has also expanded into other areas such as children's books and games. The company owns the trademark to a board game called 'Memory' and has demanded Apple stop offering apps that have the word 'memory' in their title or as a keyword associated with an app. It may seem ludicrous such a common word can be trademarked, but apparently this is a valid claim as Apple is now serving notices to app developers. The choice an infringing app developer has is to either rename their app or remove it from the App Store."
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Apple Orders Memory Game Developers To Stop Using 'Memory' In Names

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  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:06PM (#41981423)

    Yes, your garden looks very nice at first glance. But I'll stay out here, thanks.

    Sometimes a central authority is a good thing. But no-fucking-body is telling me what software I can or can't download, or banning me from downloading certain titles over some stupid shit like this. And this is just a mild example of what they *could* do if they wanted.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:10PM (#41981455)
      You couldn't even be bothered to RTFS, could you? This is about a legal claim against Apple, it has nothing to do with them operating a walled garden (though I agree this is a bad thing).
      • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:13PM (#41981489)

        Yes, I understand that Apple didn't CHOOSE to do this (in this case anyway). It's the fact that they CAN that bothers me.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:15PM (#41981521)
        Actually, this is about them operating a walled garden! The developer doesn't even get to decide whether to challenge the claim in court. He complies or gets kicked out (with that app).
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Jessified (1150003)

          The funny thing is: what's a more common word than 'Memory?' How about 'Apple?'

      • Exactly this. This has nothing to do with a walled garden. This exact same copyright claim could (and probably will) be brought against the Amazon, Android, Microsoft, etc. stores which have the same type of infringing apps.
        • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:26PM (#41981695)

          This exact same copyright claim ...

          No copyright claim is being made. This is about a trademark.

          Copyrights, trademarks, and patents are three different things . How can we ever expect politicians to fix our IP system, when even many geeks seem incapable of understanding even the absolute basics?

          • by bfandreas (603438)
            Also this trademark is at least 30 years old. And it propably only applies to borad games. Propably only card games. If it has been registered abroad(as in not in Germany) is not known to me.

            If we want to compile a list of trademarks for common words we could start with:
            A is for Apple
            and work our way across the alphabet until we reach
            M is for Monopoly
            make our way up to
            W is for Windows

            I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to fill in the gaps. But I guess you get my meaning.

            So while Apple(n
            • The age of a trademark is irrelevant, as long as it is paid for and defended. The trademark also only applies to a specific area.
              Its fine to name your concrete company "McDonald's Concrete" but a food outlet called "MacDonanld's Home Made Burgers" is going to get your ass sued.
              Trademarks also have to be approved and can be disputed easily as well.
          • This is about a trademark.

            Copyrights, trademarks, and patents are three different things . How can we ever expect politicians to fix our IP system, when even many geeks seem incapable of understanding even the absolute basics?

            Fix the IP system? Politicians, advertising, many corporations, and now you are actively confusing the public by grouping the 3 terms into "intellectual property." Of which there is no such thing. Owning ideas is impossible, outside of fiction and courtrooms.

          • Citizen Joe Average doesn't care. To him, all IP and related issues are grouped together and it doesn't matter if they're called copyright, trademarks, or patents. And thanks to persistent over-reach and abuse of them by megacorps, he almost certainly now believes they're all idiotic schemes, and he will honor them exactly as much as he needs to in order to stay away from jail and massive fines, and not one iota more. Megacorps have broken the idea of IP for the foreseeable future, and it looks like they're

    • by Cinder6 (894572) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:20PM (#41981603)

      1. Apple isn't banning the apps, they're telling the developers they have to rename them.
      2. This isn't some arbitrary decision by Apple (unlike some other cases), this is because another company owns the trademark to "memory" in the context of games and is threatening to sue Apple if they don't comply with the order to have the apps' names changed.

      • by bhlowe (1803290) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:23PM (#41981657)
        Do you know how many small developers this might impact? Each app may have hundreds or thousands of dollars in advertising, name brand awareness, web site names, artwork... etc. Apple should use its billions of dollars to squash this ridiculous claim. Its a word in a dictionary, not a proprietary trademark. This is Apple being a pussy.
        • by Desler (1608317) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:35PM (#41981815)

          You do realize that plenty of "dictionary" words are trademarked, right? Apple, Windows, Subway, Amazon, Android, Fire. I could go on and on.

          • by Psyborgue (699890) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @02:05PM (#41982247) Homepage Journal
            And it's only a violation if you compete in the same field or there would be a potential for confusion. Nobody is going to confuse a "Memory" game with a "free memory" app, for example. I would think there are hundreds, if not thousands of apps in the app store that nobody would reasonably confuse with the (famous?) "Memory(tm)" game. I just checked in the app store. Take for example "battery memory system status monitor" would be affected. Would anybody ever confuse that with the "Memory(tm)" game, whatever that is?
        • by houghi (78078)

          If it were the other way around, do you think Apple would hesitate one second to the identical claim?
          And sure Apple has the money to buy laws. Good that money is the deciding factor for you, not who is right or wrong.

      • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @02:08PM (#41982287)

        2. This isn't some arbitrary decision by Apple (unlike some other cases), this is because another company owns the trademark to "memory" in the context of games and is threatening to sue Apple if they don't comply with the order to have the apps' names changed.

        Which doesn't change the fact that this could happen so easily only because the other company only had to squeeze one throat to get a shutdown for *all* apps.

    • by tlhIngan (30335) <(ten.frow) (ta) (todhsals)> on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:26PM (#41981691)

      Sometimes a central authority is a good thing. But no-fucking-body is telling me what software I can or can't download, or banning me from downloading certain titles over some stupid shit like this. And this is just a mild example of what they *could* do if they wanted.

      Well, the developer (ANY developer, mind you) can get sued for trademark infringement, so even your "open access" rules can get curtailed. Yes, if you make a "memory" game, expect to receive some cease-and-desist soon, regardless if it's walled, garden, open-source, whatever.

      And Apple has so far let users keep their "removed" apps. I think even iCloud keeps a copy if you happen to not have a backed up copy.

      Nope, it's nothing to do with a walled garden (which actually doesn't affect users so much as developers since removed apps still can be used by existing uesrs). This affects *ALL* developers.

      • by characterZer0 (138196) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:33PM (#41981797)

        It does have to do with a walled garden. A company can make a possibly frivilous complaint againt the garden owner who can then kick you out, and you have no recourse. If it was not a walled garden and you could sell your app independently, the claimant would have to go after you directly, and you would have the opportunity to legally defend yourself.

      • by psmears (629712) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:51PM (#41982029)

        Sometimes a central authority is a good thing. But no-fucking-body is telling me what software I can or can't download, or banning me from downloading certain titles over some stupid shit like this. And this is just a mild example of what they *could* do if they wanted.

        Well, the developer (ANY developer, mind you) can get sued for trademark infringement, so even your "open access" rules can get curtailed.

        This much is true...

        Yes, if you make a "memory" game, expect to receive some cease-and-desist soon, regardless if it's walled, garden, open-source, whatever.

        And Apple has so far let users keep their "removed" apps. I think even iCloud keeps a copy if you happen to not have a backed up copy.

        Nope, it's nothing to do with a walled garden (which actually doesn't affect users so much as developers since removed apps still can be used by existing uesrs). This affects *ALL* developers.

        ... but you're missing an important point. The significance of the "walled garden" reference is this: if I am a developer of an application that uses the word "memory" in its title or as a keyword, but in a non-infringing way (and it's hard to imagine that every single possible use of the word "memory" infringes the trademark), then outside a walled garden, I have options: I may choose to capitulate to avoid a lawsuit, or I can choose to take my chances with the legal system and continue using the term (and, if I can get a good lawyer, I may well win). But Apple is not giving developers that choice - they can either remove the term "memory", or remove the app entirely.

        I suspect that Ravensburger have taken action to protect their trademark, and are only likely concerned about apps that are similar to / might be confused with their product - and Apple are indeed probably liable if they are selling infringing products. But, rather than vet individual apps based on whether they infringe or not (which is time-consuming and error-prone), Apple have taken a decision to impose a blanket ban on the term - which, while I see the practical benefits from their point of view, is clearly detrimental to, say, people searching for an application to check what DIMMs might be compatible with some hardware they need to upgrade...

    • Do you think the German company won't go after Android apps? Side loading doesn't mean anything when someone shuts the developer down.
    • by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @02:20PM (#41982459) Journal

      "It's harder for me to commit a crime so I don't like it" is the argument here. What's happening is there's a trademark claim, and people are being made to comply. It's no different than if you marketed an app called "Photoshop Pro" and Adobe shit all over your party, except people are so used to the concept of Tetris and, in this case, Memory that they find it bizarre and offensive that somebody actually owns these things. Somebody invented it, but all people see is that they can't remember when it was novel, so it must be free.

      Trademark law is really strange. If you don't protect your trademark, you lose it. If Ravensberger makes an iOS app for the game of Memory, everyone searching for it will get all these clones, superior or inferior, by the same name. They'll play those and ignore Ravensberger's Memory. The market is then unmarketable. Thus Ravensberger has a strong desire to protect their trademark to Memory, since if they lose it and another market opens up and they want to capitalize on it then they can't because they can't defend their trademark because it has become generic. Thus they must petition to stop these things from using their trademark.

      This is the same reason that Adobe doesn't like when someone claims they "used GIMP to photoshop" something: you did NOT photoshop that, Photoshop was not involved, stop saying these untrue things, you are creating brand confusion. It's fair game to say something is "like Photoshop," but not that it IS Photoshop or has been adjusted via Photoshop if Photoshop was not involved.

      But all people want to see is, "Hey, how can you do that?" and they use weird arguments like "You' can't just trademark a generic word!" UPS has a trademark on the color Brown; both American Express and IBM have trademarks on the color Blue. Thing is UPS only has a trademark on using the color brown as a major marketing identifier for a shipping company: you cannot make a brown DHL, it has to be yellow or something. If FedEx reimaged to primarily earth tones, UPS would have a valid suit against them. If Chicago Suits took up the color brown as their major marketing factor--brown slacks, brown shoes, brown jackets, business and business casual wear--UPS has absolutely no standing to sue them because they're not a god damn shipping company and the trademark on Brown doesn't apply. Ravenberger has a trademark on a board game called Memory, and if you make a Memory toothbrush that doesn't reference the board game in any way then you're not infringing on their trade.

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOspAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:07PM (#41981429) Journal

    The Memory Game
    That classic game of remembering is back in this awesome new iPhone app!

    Apple: Please remove 'memory' from the title of your game or we will remove your game for you!

    The Memorie Game
    The Anglo-Normans are challenging your ability to remember in this awesome new iPhone app!

    Apple: Don't be a smartass, you know what we mean. Please remove 'memorie' from the title of your game or we will remove your game for you!

    The Memoria Game
    Which cards had Marcus Aurelius beneath them and which cards had Marcus Annius Verus under them?! This classic challenging Latin game of remembering cards is in this awesome new iPhone app!

    Apple: Goddamnit. Okay, no Latin root words of Memoria, okay? You'll be sued, we'll be sued, they own everything related to mem- and as preemptive warning, no 'mnemonic' shit either, okay? It's all owned by someone else!

    The Apple Can Go Fuck Itself Game
    Which company is making Apple its Intellectual Property bitch today? Try to find out in this classic game of "wait, what card was that again?"

    Apple: Approved.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Foreign words are valid trademarks in all countries I've bothered to check, so that doesn't surprise me, at least for an international store like Apple's. Also, you *can* trademark a word to refer to this particular game. Nobody says you can't make a game that has you flip pictures and match them up as you remember where which one is. You just can't call it just 'Memory'. Come up with your own name, and you're golden. But of course then you can't mooch off their popularity by having people who look for 'Mem

    • Not really. They aren't just banning ones named "memory" if the summery is correct they are bring down the ban hammer on any with "memory" in the title. Besides just because it is trademarked in anothe country does not make it trademarked her where it is a common part of your vocabulary. than agains so is apple window and other generic terms that have been trademarked

  • by quangdog (1002624) <quangdog.gmail@com> on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:12PM (#41981481)
    Using your recollection, the ability to hold in your mind certain facts, figures or concepts is a part of your consciousness. Recall is important, as is retention and awareness. Our app will help you to stop it with all the forgetfulness. Buy it today so you can remember tomorrow.

    See, it's easy to avoid using a certain word.
  • Didn't someone do the same thing with the word "razor" a few years ago?

    • Didn't someone do the same thing with the word "razor" a few years ago?

      Yes. It was Occam. My conclusion derived by the very razor of which you speak.

  • Companies do not own words because they used them first. It's one thing to outright steal the name of a product. It's another thing to claim you own every word in that product's name.
    • Companies do not own words because they used them first. It's one thing to outright steal the name of a product. It's another thing to claim you own every word in that product's name.

      If you name your product with a word that describes some important aspect of your product, it will not get a trademark. Want to call your car company "Emu Cars"? You can get a trademark. If you want to call your car company "Wheels Cars"? You cannot go after people for using the world "Wheels" in their ads and descriptions.

      Therefore, there is no way you can get a trademark on your graphical windowing system called "Windows".

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Try to create a program with the 'Word', 'Excel', or 'Windows' in it. I dare 'ya. ;-)

      Sadly, like patents and copyright, trademarks have jumped the shark. Once they get granted, they're legally valid.

      I would say that Ravensburger are penis heads, and whoever granted the word 'Memory' as a trademark is a complete moron. Now they're being memory nazi's. ;-)

      I think I'll trademark Computer, Internet, Software, and Program .. and maybe a couple of adjectives like Big, Small, and Laughable. Oh, and for good me

  • Overreaching? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Adrian Lopez (2615) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:23PM (#41981655) Homepage

    Does this apply to all apps or just games? If it's just games then the claim may be indeed be legitimate (or not), but if it's all apps then it's certainly a case of overreaching by the trademark holder (or else an overreaction by Apple).

    The most ridiculous element is the ban on the use of "memory" as a keyword. Trademark law was never intended to forbid others from naming competitors' products or from using trademarked words in their descriptive sense ("this game will enhance your memory and give you super-strength!").

    • by MrSenile (759314)
      I have just released a brand new game.

      I call the(tm) game 'The'. I have trademarked 'The' and any use of this word will be disallowed without royalties.
      A new trademark list has been approved for the(tm) future games below.

      Se(tm)e(tm) fre(tm)e(tm) pre(tm)vi(tm)e(tm)ws of the((tm)tm) fu(tm)tu(tm)re(tm) ga(tm)me(tm)s 'A', 'But', 'An', 'Or', a(tm)nd o(tm)u(tm)r a(tm)dd-i(tm)n mo(tm)du(tm)le(tm)s 'E', 'I', 'O', 'U', a(tm)nd 'Y'. (a(tm)ll ri(tm)ghts re(tm)se(tm)rve(tm)d).
  • by Pirulo (621010) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:23PM (#41981659)
    Apple now has to comply with all IP notices as they are the champions of the game. Soon they will discover that is not possible.
  • You couldn't trademark a word of the English language, in and of itself - it would't hold up in US courts. You trademark a logo, an artistically stylized version of the word. The mere word itself is off limits to IP hucksters. Then again, I guess I doubt anyone else could come up with a new game and call it, "Monopoly" (how fitting) or "Sorry", or "Uno", or whatever.. so .. I dunno.. well, IANAL after all.
  • by InterruptDescriptorT (531083) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:26PM (#41981699) Homepage
    Come on, Apple. This claim is bullshit. Stand up for the developers who make your App Store and ecosystem a success.

    Fucking cowardice.
    • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:52PM (#41982065) Homepage Journal

      Come on, Apple. This claim is bullshit. Stand up for the developers who make your App Store and ecosystem a success.

      Apple just doesn't have the cash to fight a small boardgame company from Germany.

    • by pz (113803)

      Come on, Apple. This claim is bullshit. Stand up for the developers who make your App Store and ecosystem a success.

      Apple, a very common word, is trademarked.
      As is Lion.
      And Aperture.
      And Motion.
      And Safari.
      Etc.

      Microsoft plays this game, too --
      with Office.
      And Windows.
      And Surface.
      etc.

      Is there a strong standing for Memory not to be allowed the same protections that AAPL enjoys on it's corporate branding? Not enforcing the request would be hypocritical at the very least.

  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:32PM (#41981779) Homepage Journal
    A board game named 'Memory' is a specific piece of IP.

    Which means, no one but the group that owns the rights to the IP of aforementioned board game is allowed, legally, to create a memory based board game and name it 'Memory.'

    It does not mean that group owns all instances of the word memory.

    It does not mean that group owns all instances of memory based board games.

    This is simple, basic stuff.



    WTF, Apple Legal? You're good enough at what you do to get a judgement against one of your competitors/suppliers for using goddamn rounded corners, but not good enough to point out something that's obvious to most 4th graders?
  • In the US, Hasbro holds the trademark for "Memory" as applied to card matching games. So what happens if Hasbro decides to develop a "Memory" app for the iTunes store? (They already have one for Simon.) Who would Apple decide should win that battle?

  • The EU is doomed to a steady slide into bureaucratic sludge, making it uncompetitive and irrelevant. Great for the U.S., where innovation still thrives (despite Nathan Myhrvold's defense of patent trolling [engadget.com] and other intellectual property extorts).
  • A similar thing happened a few years ago with apps that displayed photos with white borders that were thicker along one edge. Apparently Polaroid have a design patent on that and complained to Apple. End result: apps can be rejected/removed from the App Store if they display a photo with a white border that is thicker along one side.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:39PM (#41981859) Homepage

    Isn't there something about trademarks and common words not being eligible? Microsoft *almost* lost their Lindows case in a big way because of that. Anyone remember this case? Lindows was being sued by Microsoft, and Lindows was putting forth the argument that Microsoft is not entitled to the name "Windows" as a trademark. Microsoft paid Lindows to change their name and to dropped the case entirely.

    That said, Apple is not a court. They are a company which is exposed to legal action by the holder of the trademark "Memory." Rather than take on that challenge for the greater good (something which I am sure Google would do) Apple has decided in favor of avoiding additional legal problems. It is their right to do so.

    So, what should these small apps people do? Well, turns out, there is very little they can do. They can (a) license the use of the name Memory for their game (not something I imagine would be profitabe or even allowed) or (b) file a pre-emptive suit for the right to use the name or possibly (c) file a re-examination request with the trademark offices to see if it can get revoked. Of these, I would push in favor of (c) but even then, if successful, unless it were a big news story, Apple would likely ignore your assertion that "they no longer have the rights to that name, so please allow my app into your store."

  • I have a feeling Thesaurus.com is going to get many requests for the word Memoey real soon.

    Off the top of my head, some alternatives to Memory....
    cognizance
    memorization
    recognition
    recollection
    retention

  • As a kind of mass protest AND humor enhancer.

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