Apple launches Wordle Copycat app, but more to come

Tuesday afternoon, Search “Wordle” on the iOS App Store A small number of applications appear Mimic the name and gameplay of the game simple word game have Going viral in recent weeks. but none of these iOS app Made by Brooklyn-based software engineer Josh Wardle, who Created a free online game last October.

All those knockoff apps are gone now, apparently an App Store reviewer in some social media follow. But that probably doesn’t mean the end of Wordle clones. These quick-removal documents cover the complex legal and social environment surrounding parody apps, as well as the protections developers can claim for their game ideas.

Who owns “Wordle”?

First, it’s important to note that Wordle’s basic five-letter guessing game isn’t an entirely original idea in itself. The same basic gameplay was popularized by Lingo, a game show that America dating back to the 80’s and other countries. Jotto, a two-person pen-and-paper game dating back to 1955, is also very familiar to Wordle players. Prior to this, a more traditional version of the game called Bulls and Cows had reportedly been played since the 19th century at least one source.

Conveniently, this history poses no legal problems for Wordle itself. “As long as you own the copyright, you are 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 taking, especially when you get into the game.”

In other words, copyrighting an abstract game mechanic like “guess a five-letter word and give hints based on the correct letter” is very difficult.Game developers can apply for patent On an original game idea, one has been used to strangle Electronic games clone In the past. But getting a patent is a long and arduous process that could fall apart if there was “prior art” prior to the idea (or if the mechanism could be legally considered “obvious”).

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Separate from copyrights or patents, trademarks at least legally protect the Wordle name from imitators. But unlike copyright, which automatically applies when a work is published, trademarks offer very limited protection unless they are registered with the USPTO.

fast Search On the USPTO website Two previous trademarks for software named “Wordle” are shown, one from 2010 and one from 2013. Both trademarks were dropped shortly after their initial filing, but Wardle apparently didn’t apply for his own trademark under his suddenly popular name.

This allowed the “Wordle” trademark to be legally snapped up, and a company called Monkey Labs Inc. took advantage of the situation. On January 7, the company filed its own trademark application for “Wordle,” claiming to have “the name of a downloadable computer application for use in social networking, that is, publishing, displaying, or displaying information in the field of video games over the Internet. , i.e. Software for playing word puzzle games.”

There may be grounds for cancellation of the mark for commercial misrepresentation Lanham Act of 1947, but any such legal argument could be an uphill battle. This is especially true since other games and applications used this name before Wardle was created.There are currently three games iOS App Store-Wordle! , Wordle Word Puzzle and Wordles – Years before the Wardle version. While none of these bear any mechanical resemblance to the current viral epidemic, they make as many claims about the historical use of the name “Wordle” as anyone.

Attack of the clones

Trademarks aside, the copyright laws that protect Wordle itself help protect anyone who wants to make their own version of the same basic idea. That means the law can’t stop other five-letter guessing games from existing. Ars Technica readers may remember a similar explosion of iOS clones Facing the likes of Vlambeer’s Radical Fishing and Super Crate Boy, also Jenova Chen flow, Spry Fox’s Triple Town, and countless others.

but although idea Wordle is not very protected by law, games are specific Express The idea is. Therefore, clones that copy the user interface, layout, and other design elements of the Wardle version may still break the law.Back in 2012, Tetris used this argument to close a particularly blatant Tetris Clone on the App Store.

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