Patent trolls start and win: how I was left without a game

Published on January 10, 2019

Patent trolls start and win: how I was left without a game


    "Balda ® - a game familiar to everyone from school." Very often the description of this word game begins with a rubber stamp. However, such a cliché reflects the essence well: the game Balda ® is widely known since the times when there were shops in schools instead of chairs.


    The game Balda ® itself had countless different implementations for mobile phones and PCs. In the distant 2011 and 2013, I myself wrote two versions of the game Balda ® for Android and iOS, which gained 3.5 million installations.


    Probably, the attentive reader already had a question: can it be enough to write Balda ® in each sentence? why after the word Balda is a sign of the legal protection of the trademark ®?


    Everything is very simple: from the end of 2017, the company "Parity Lift" became the exclusive holder of the trademark "Balda", and only "Parity Lift" has the right to produce games under this name. In early 2018, dozens of different games called “Balda” were removed from the app stores. Only one remained, protected by Rospatent.


    However, first things first. Under the cut a little patent law, blackmail and mobile gamedev.


    History tour


    The game of Balda is quite a folk game, it is difficult to say exactly who invented it and when. Wikipedia claims that for the first time the rules of the game Balda were published in the journal Science and Life in 1980 (called the Royal Square). The magazine suggested using the word "Balda" as the starting word. Maybe the name went from there?



    Nevertheless, the majority of the game is still known just as "Balda". How did it happen that the name of the national game became a trademark? For the first time, an application to Rospatent for registration of the “Balda” trademark was filed by Iskrasoft in 2002.



    Despite its name, ending "soft", it was a trade and construction group, and the main activity for it was the wholesale trade in paintwork materials, flat glass, sanitary equipment and other construction materials. It is not entirely clear what they were going to do under this sonorous naming, but when registering, the ICGS (International Classification of Goods and Services) codes indicated almost everything possible.


    In principle, such a registration is not surprising. Even single common words can be registered as trademarks. For example, King.com has registered the trademarks "candy" and "saga", and the aforementioned Iskrasoft has even registered the trademark "Dad".


    In 2010, the Iskrasoft Company ceded the YURTsENTR trademark, and in 2017 the YURTSENTR company transferred the rights to the Parity Lift trademark. Since each trademark is registered in relation to certain goods and services, not all rights have been transferred, but only some (of course, because the more classes, the more expensive is registration).


    The Paritet Lift company inherited from Iskrasoft, rights to the list of two classes of ICGS: class 9 products and class 42 services. The 9th class of goods of MKTU includes:


    scientific, marine, geodesic, photographic, cinematographic, optical instruments and tools for weighing, measuring, signaling, controlling (checking), saving and training; instruments and tools for the transmission, distribution, transformation, accumulation, regulation or control of electricity; equipment for recording, transmission, reproduction of sound or images; magnetic media, audio recording discs; vending machines and mechanisms for prepaid devices; cash registers, counting machines, information processing equipment and computers; fire extinguishing equipment.

    It is here about anything, but not about software products, and the game "Balda" does not fit this description. The fact is that every five years there is a new edition of the ICGS.
    In 2002, when the first registration of the “Balda” trademark took place, the 8th edition was in force (11 is now in operation). Iskrasoft has registered its trademark in accordance with the 8th edition and received rights in respect of this long list of devices and tools. The item "software" in class 9 of the IKTU appeared only in 10 editions (in 2011). That is, neither Iskrasoft nor the Parity Lift, subsequently, had a trademark right in respect of software.


    Right to right


    However, a week after the registration of the trademark, the Parity Lift company began to exercise its exclusive rights. A certain Mr. Tsimbalyuk V.S., the general director of Parity Lift, sent me (and another 20 other developers) an e-mail with such a requirement.



    It's simple: either remove any mention of the name "Balda" from the game, or pay to use it.


    It would seem, really the name of the game is so important? Unfortunately, more recently, yes. Google Play is constantly changing the game recommendation algorithms, and recent changes have meant that many games are completely organic. The only source of free traffic for them is search. It is logical to assume that if you eliminate dozens of competitors and take all the search traffic yourself, you can quickly climb to the top.


    Complaints were sent to all versions of the game “Balda” on Google Play, and Google in early January 2018 hastened to restore patent justice. Google is not interested in such nuances as the discrepancy between classes of ICGS and what is covered by registration. A trademark is a trademark!


    January 3, 2018, all games called “Balda” became unavailable in Russian Google Play. A couple of examples:





    Since 90% of the players were from Russia, for my two games this actually became tantamount to deletion.


    By the way, the guys from Cupertino did it easier, decided not to bother with the restriction by country and really just deleted my game from the App Store.



    Substitute identical natural


    Nature does not tolerate emptiness. Instead of a dozen deleted options "Baldy" should have something to appear in return. And indeed, the next day after I received the letter with the demand, an advertising review of a new "folk linguistic game" appeared on one site. Of course, different versions of the game "Balda" for mobile platforms have been created for almost ten years. But only this game was real, original, as indicated by the trademark protection mark.



    I will not indulge in discussions about the quality of the hand-crafted craft and compare it with products that have developed over the years. Maybe I find fault, but it seems to me that the arrogance of patent trolls sometimes knows no bounds. I see a certain similarity between my game and the game from the patent troll.



    This advertisement was ineffective, and the players chose better and more popular games. However, after a search on Google Play began to produce a single version of "Baldy", things went surprisingly well for her.



    On August 27, 2018, the Parity Lift company finally registered the “Balda” trademark in relation to the new list of products, which included “ computer programs; computer game programs ”. And from this point on, they really have every right to demand the removal of other games with this name.


    Periodically, “Balda” games appear on Google Play, but there is no doubt that they will be deleted after the complaint.


    By the way, I wonder if LG is up to date, which is ugly in violation of the law with its Smart TV app?



    PS


    In a saturated gaming market, eliminating competitors works very effectively. I wonder how much is left to wait before registering the trademarks "Fool", "Tic-tac-toe" and "Sea battle"?