Apple promoted the Wordle Copycat apps, but more will come
On Tuesday afternoon, Finding “Wordle” on the iOS App Store turned up a handful of apps including the name and gameplay of the simple word game that has gone viral in recent weeks. But none of those iOS apps were made by Josh Wardle, the Brooklyn - based software engineer who created the free web - based game last October.
All of these copy apps are gone now, due to a seemingly cleanup by App Store reviewers after some social media attention. But this does not seem to mean the end of Wordle clones. That paper quickly moves over the complex legal and social perspective surrounding copycat apps and the protections that developers can apply to their game ideas.
Who owns Wordle?
For starters, it’s important to remember that the basic five-letter measurement game that is the basis of Wordle is not a completely original idea. The same basic game was enjoyed by Lingo, a game show dating back to the 80s in the US and other countries. The Jotto two - player pen and paper game, which dates back to 1955, would be familiar to Wordle players as well. Previously, a more traditional version of the game called Bulls and Cows had been played since the 19th century, according to at least one source.
Appropriately, none of this history is a legal problem for Wordle itself. "When you have copyright, you are defending the phrase, not the idea," Dallas lawyer Mark Methenitis told Ars. "It is a line that many people have a very difficult time with. , especially when you get into games. ”
In other words, abstract game mechanics such as "measuring five - letter words and rendering ads based on correct letters" are extremely difficult to copyright. " A game developer can file for a patent on an original game idea, a legal process used to block video game clones in the past. However, obtaining a patent is a long and arduous process that can fall apart if “prior art” is the idea (or if the mechanics could be considered legal). “Obvious”).
Free trademark for all
Apart from copyright or patent, a trademark may legally protect the Wordle name from being used by copycats. But unlike copyright, which applies automatically when a work is published, trademarks offer very little protection until and unless they are registered with the Trademark and Trademark Office. and SA.
A quick search of the USPTO website reveals two preconceived notions for software called "Wordle," one from 2010 and one from 2013. Both were abandoned shortly after the original registration, but Wardle does not appear to have filed for his own trademark on his own trademark. suddenly a popular name.
That has left the trademark "Wordle" legally available for capture, a position owned by a company called Monkey Labs Inc. has taken advantage of. On January 7, these apparel submitted their own trademark application for “Wordle,” claiming ownership of the name for “downloadable computer software for social networks, that is, for posting, displaying, or displaying information in an electronic play area via the Internet. , that is, software for playing word puzzle games. "
There may be a reason for this trademark to be revoked for commercial misrepresentation under the Lanham Act 1947, but such a legal argument could be an uphill battle. This is especially true since other games and apps used the name before Wardle was created. There are currently three games on the iOS App Store - Wordle !, Wordle - Word Puzzle, and Wordles - which has been the forerunner of the Wardle version for years. While none of these are mechanically similar to the usual viral strike, they have as much claim to the historical use of the name "Wordle" as anyone.
Attack the Clones
In addition to trademark, Wordle's own copyright protection laws help protect anyone who wants to make their own version of the same basic idea. That means there's little that the law can do to stop other five - letter guessing games from happening. Ars Technica readers may remember the similarly opposed iOS clone explosion such as Vlambeer's Radical Fishing and Super Crate Boy, as well as Jenova Chen fl0w, Spry Fox's Triple Town, and no other.
But while the thought Wordle is not very legally protected, something that is unique to the game sentence of that opinion is. So a clone that duplicated the user interface, layout, and other design elements of Wardle's version could still be against the law. Back in 2012, The Tetris Company used this argument to shut down a particular case Tetris clone on the App Store.