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

An anonymous reader writes with this bit of trademark absurdity from "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 @01:13PM (#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).
  • 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 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.
  • 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 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 Baloroth ( 2370816 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:32PM (#41981769)

    Because Google hasn't done something similar? They've removed apps for trademark and copyright claims. But, hey, let's ignore that because we are Google fans.

    Ok. And that stops me from installing those apps on Android... how, exactly?

  • by Psyborgue ( 699890 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:32PM (#41981777) Homepage Journal
    And it's the fact they can that's what's the problem with the walled garden. If i'm a private company selling an app to you directly I can tell Ravensburger to go fuck themselves and if they want their trademark torn up they're welcome to take me to court. If i'm a developer selling through Apple or another walled garden, then who the hell am I supposed to appeal to? I could sue Ravensburger for damages, but in the mean time what do I do?
  • 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?
  • 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 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 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...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:54PM (#41982089)

    and all of those can be used in the name of a game

  • 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 dywolf ( 2673597 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @02:06PM (#41982259)

    i still dont think you read the article or summary. youre statements still have nothing to do with article.

  • 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 roguegramma ( 982660 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @02:28PM (#41982539) Journal

    Ravensburger is a German company, so any English word is considered to be sufficiently exotic to be trademarked.

    Remember that when the USA pushes next time for harmonization and enforcement of trademark laws in other countries.

  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @02:46PM (#41982783) Homepage


    You don't need to root an Android in order to side load apps.

    You can also install alternate app stores.

    It's that whole "open systems" thing.

  • by DavidTC ( 10147 ) <<moc.xobreven> ... .vidavsxd54sals>> on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @02:55PM (#41982905) Homepage

    Why are you assuming that they are card matching games? Or even games at all. 'Memory' is part of a iPhone, after all.

    Memory, as a foreign word, is a perfectly reasonable trademark for a German board game.

    The problem is, as an _English_ word that actually describes part of a computer, it's really insane to run around claiming that computer programs cannot use it in their name.

    It's sorta like 'Ford' is a entirely reasonable trademark for cars...but then Ford enters a new market that makes devices to help cars float across, they can't bring that trademark along and sue people who sell a 'fording device'.

    The trademark makes sense in the context of German board games, it does not make sense in the context of international computer programs.

  • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @03:01PM (#41982979) Journal

    The problem is that Apple is also blocking sales while the two parties "work it out". Which they may never will - for example, the "offending" party may well be in a different jurisdiction where the trademark simply doesn't apply, but it applies to Apple in the states.

    And the reason why it is a problem is because the app author can't just work it out directly with his users. If you're out of the App Store, you don't have any official, supported channel for people to install your app, period. So, yes, this is entirely about the walled garden.

  • by Anubis IV ( 1279820 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @03:20PM (#41983199)

    Sure. But that has no relevance whatsoever, so I fail to see why you bothered to bring it up. Trademarks only apply within specific domains. Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer) and Apple Records were able to coexist for years since they were in different industries, yet they both had valid trademarks for the term Apple within their industries. It wasn't until Apple Inc. decided to get into music that things got really messy, since Apple Records had rights to the name in that space.

    I could probably make a soda brand named Subway if I wanted to, but I couldn't make a restaurant with that name, since the name is already trademarked in that domain. Similarly, here, Memory is a trademarked name within the domain of games. While I could likely make a clothing brand named Memory, I can't make a game with that name, just as I can't make a tablet named Fire or an OS named Windows or Android. Just because I can make a product named Memory in a different domain does not mean that I have a right to make a product named Memory in the domain in which a trademark for that term applies.

  • by Psyborgue ( 699890 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @03:25PM (#41983269) Homepage Journal
    A C&D is not a court order. I'm not obliged to comply. If I made, for example, a memory checker system tool for iOS and Ravensburger sent me a C&D I could tell them to go screw as they would have no case. Apple, on the other hand, doesn't give a fuck as to the threat's credibility and is only thinking about risk management... so there goes my app, or it gets renamed to something useless nobody will ever find.

Truth is free, but information costs.