I recently had a little adventure on the Google Play store, where I publish a few apps. I wanted to share the story with you, because it illustrates the danger of having a single company (Google) that dictates an entire platform (Android) and its app store (Google Play Store).
It's about a game app called Infinite Maze. This is a cute little game that Theo Danes and I created as an entry for the 2014 Best Illusion of the Year Contest. A playable optical illusion! We didn't win, but I'm proud to say that we made the finals.
You can read more about the illusion here, but this post is about a trademark infringement that was filed by Namco against a dozen-or-so apps, including Infinite Maze. Namco is the company behind Pac-man. Their exact allegation was:
this app infringes PAC-MAN in the first game screenshot; PAC-MAN is clearly seen as the game title
Besides punctuation, there is something very wrong with this allegation: It is not true. Sure, Infinite Maze is a labyrinth game, and it's clearly inspired by Pac-man. In the past, I have even referred to it as Infinite Maze of Pac-man. But before uploading it to the Google Play store, I removed all mention of the word 'pac-man' in the game so that I wouldn't violate any trademarks. The word 'pac-man' now only occurs in the app description in the context of 'a pac-man-inspired game'. A phrasing that, as far as I know, doesn't constitute trademark infringement. But even if it does, Namco's specific allegation is that the word 'pac-man' is seen as the game title in a screenshot, which is utter, full, and complete nonsense.
I was informed of this allegation only after the app had been pulled. No warning. No advance notice. No chance for rebuttal. Google deals swift justice.
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