Tuesday afternoon, Searching for “Wordle” in the iOS App Store Launch a small handful of applications Aping names and gameplay Simple word game There it is Has gone viral in recent weeks. But none of this iOS apps Created by Brooklyn-based software engineer Josh Wardle Made a free web-based game last October.
All those copycat apps are gone now, with some apparent results from delayed fixes following some of the App Store reviewers. Social media attention. But that probably doesn’t mean the end of the Wordle clone. Developers of the complex legal and social landscape and security surrounding the Copicat app can sue over their game concepts with this quick removal paper.
Who owns Wordle?
To begin with, it is important to note that Wordle’s underlying basic five-character guessing game is not entirely original. The same basic gameplay was popularized by Lingo, a game show The United States dates back to the 80’s And other countries. The two-player pen-and-paper game Jotto, which dates back to 1955, will also be very familiar to World Players. Earlier, a more traditional version of the game, called bull and cow, had been played since the 19th century, according to At least one source.
Conveniently, none of this history presents a legal issue for Wordle. “Whenever you have a copyright, you’re protecting the expression, not the idea.” Dallas attorney Mark Methenitis told Ars. “It’s a line that a lot of people have a hard time with, especially when you go to games.”
In other words, it is extremely difficult to copyright an abstract game mechanic, such as “guessing five-letter words and giving hints based on the correct spelling”. A game developer can File for a patent On a real gaming concept, a legal process that has been used Suffocation Video games Clone In the past. But obtaining a patent is a long and arduous process that can be broken if the concept has a prior “previous art” (or if the mechanic can be legally considered “explicit”).
A trademark free-for-all
Unlike copyright or patent, a trademark can at least legally protect the wordle name from being exploited by copycats. But unlike copyright, which applies automatically when a work is published, trademarks offer very limited protection until they are registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
A quick search On the USPTO website Shows two previous symbols for software called “Wordle”, one from 2010 and one from 2013 Both were abandoned after their original filing, but Wardl apparently did not file for his own trademark on his suddenly popular name.
This leaves the “Wordle” trademark for legal possession, a situation that has been taken advantage of by a company called Monkey Labs Inc. On January 7, the organization filed its own trademark application for “Wordle”, claiming ownership of “downloadable computer application software for social networking, such as for posting, displaying or displaying information on electronic gaming via the Internet.” “Software for playing word puzzle games, for example.”
There may be a reason for canceling that trademark for commercial misrepresentation 1947 Lanham Act, But any such legal argument could be an uphill battle. This is especially true because other games and apps used the name before creating World. There are currently three games iOS App Store-Wordall !, Wardel – Word puzzles, and Wordless — which has been the version of Word for years. Although none of these have any mechanical resemblance to the current viral hits, there is as much demand for their historical use of the word “Wordle”.
With the exception of trademarks, copyright law protects anyone who wants to create their own version of the same basic concept that protects Wordle itself. That means the law can’t do much to stop existing five-character guessing games from existing. Ars Technica readers may remember a similar iOS clone explosion Vlaambir faces radical fishing and Super Crate Boy favorites, As well Genoa chain fl0w, Of Spray Fox Triple Town, And Countless others.
But when The idea Wordle’s not very legally secure, game specific Expression That is the idea. So a clone that copies the user interface, layout, and other design elements of the WordPress version may still be illegal. In 2012, the Tetris Company used this argument A particularly shameless closure Tetris Clone in the App Store.