By Matthew Humphries
When it comes to naming an app before it gets submitted to the App Store, you have to be careful not to choose a title that infringes a trademark. That’s relatively easy when trademarks are multiple, distinct words. But what if a single, commonly used word has been trademarked?
Ravensburger is a German gaming company that specializes in jigsaw puzzles, but has also expanded into other areas such as children’s books and games. The company owns the trademark to a board game called Memory and has demanded Apple stop offering apps that have the word ‘memory’ in their title or as a keyword associated with an app.
It may seem ludicrous such a common word can be trademarked, but apparently this is a valid claim as Apple is now serving notices to app developers. The choice an infringing app developer has is to either rename their app or remove it from the App Store.
Ravensburger owns the trademark in 42 different countries, but not in the US. That may limit the number of developers impacted by this, but you can guarantee some US developers are offering apps with memory in the title in some of those countries.
In total, there are thought to be more than 50 games this trademark will force to change names. Alternatively they will just disappear from the App Store.
While I understand Ravensburger defending its trademark against anyone offering an app simply called Memory, using it to block apps with names like Preschool Memory Match seems more than a little unfair.
As is pointed out in the comments on Gamasutra, Memory is also the name of a card game that is public domain. That doesn’t override the trademark Ravensburger holds, but it does show there is a question mark over what should and shouldn’t be allowed to be protected under law.