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Atari is Copyright-Bullying the Creator of TxK and Tempest 2000 Because TxK is "Too Similar" to Tempest 2000. Huh??

Posted by Jessica Fisher on March 18th, 2015

Update - 3/18: Gamasutra reached out to Atari for comment, and the response isn't exactly reassuring. The company is basically citing reviews that liken TxK to Tempest as proof that the two games are too similar, and insists that they have been trying to reach an amicable solution with Llamasoft (Jeff Minter) from the beginning. A claim that he wholeheartedly disagrees with. A .PDF of one of Atari's lawyers' letters has been shared by Llamasoft, and it paints picture that's somewhat different from the official commentary.

TxK, created by Jeff Minter and Llamasoft (GoatUp, Caverns of Minos, Minotron 2112), is an action shooter that's kind of the spiritual successor to Minter's previous game, Tempest 2000, which was published by Atari in 1994. Recently, Atari has set their lawyers upon Minter in an effort to shut down TxK and any other titles that might be related to Tempest 2000.

Minter has posted an explanation of the situation on Llamasoft's discussion boards that detail Atari's accusations of theft by Minter of source code, music, and the concept of "jumping" of all things.

Jeff Minter: "... in order to create TxK I must have had access to, and stolen secrets from, Atari's source code, in order to steal the work of the other people who worked on Tempest 2000. (I *wrote* the source code for Tempest 2000, and didn't need to refer to it at all to create TxK, even if I still had it. The only other people who worked on the game were Joby Woods who did bitmaps (TxK has no bitmaps apart from one 64x64 graduated dot) and the Imagitec musicians (TxK has neither a modplayer nor any of Imagitec's music). So I stole my own work out of my own brain I guess.

"The soundtrack to TxK sounds identical to the soundtrack of Tempest 2000. (In fact the TxK soundtrack is entirely original and highly acclaimed; it won a Develop award and went to #1 on Bandcamp).

The player ship can jump. Apparently Atari owns jumping."

While most of the allegations could be argued, Atari has created a legal situation that will be astronomically expensive to contest. They are using their significant size and wealth to force the smaller company and developer into submission, basically. Atari also changed the original name of Tempest 2000 to Tempest X (along with just enough of the content) when porting the game to the PlayStation in order to cut Minter off from any royalties he might have earned through sales.

According to Minter, "...they are still trying to insist that I remove from sale Vita TxK (even though it's plainly at the end of its run now and only brings in a trickle these days) and sign papers basically saying I can never make a Tempest style game ever again. So no chance of releasing the ports."

Say goodbye to all those Tempest spin-off dreams. Atari is laying down the law with a fist made of money.

(Follow up) Lima Sky Claiming Trademark on the Word "Doodle"?

Posted by Jeff Scott on January 11th, 2011

Follow up posted: We posted a follow up story with details from Lima Sky on their side of the story. Read the reply before jumping to any further conclusions.

Earlier today, developers of apps with the word Doodle in their titles started receiving notices from Lima Sky through Apple that they are in violation of Lima Sky intellectual property rights. Lima Sky is most famous for releasing one of the most popular games on the iOS platform, Doodle Jump.

I am as sick of the Doodle meme in iOS games as anyone - it's unoriginal and quite simply boring. But trying to claim that you own the Doodle term or art style seems a bit absurd. Doodle Jump itself isn't even unique - it just got many things right. It's an old art style applied to a game type that's been around forever.

Doodle Jump wasn't even the first app in the App Store with Doodle in the title. There were multiple apps in the iTunes App Store with the word Doodle in their title before Doodle Jump. Some of those include Doodle Kids, uDoodle, Pocket Doodle, and Doodle Chat. Outside of the App Store there are countless examples of games with Doodle in the name that pre-date Doodle Jump.

As of today, their have been 730 applications approved for the App Store with the word Doodle in their title. Unoriginal yes; trademark violation? I don't see how.

It's a rather odd move for a developer that has been so friendly with other developers in the community. This just seems like a frivolous pursuit of small developers on the App Store. And for what? Does Lima Sky want to be the next Tim Langdell? Langdell's claim of a trademark for the word Edge ended in failure when Electronic Arts stood up to him. And in the end he looked like the most evil person in the gaming industry.

We have requested comment from Lima Sky and their lawyers, but have yet to hear back. We're interested to find what their exact trademark claims are and what they are requesting of the developers of other Doodle titles. We'll update this post if we hear back from them.

Update: Developers have started talking about this over at the Touch Arcade forums here. Specifically, Bryan Duke of Acceleroto, developer of Doodle Hockey has a great description of the issue and his experiences.

Update 2: We got a standard form letter back from the lawyers representing Lima Sky confirming that Lima Sky is seeking to have apps with Doodle in the title change their names as they are claiming a trademark on the word Doodle. We'll try to contact the lawyer in charge directly to get a comment later today, after the Verizon press conference.

Update 3: I'm no lawyer. But I've been informed that we're actually talking about trademark here, not copyright. Article corrected.

[photo credit: Flickr user walkn]

Apple Removes StoneLoops from the App Store at the Request of MumboJumbo

Posted by Will on October 27th, 2009

StoneLoops! of Jurassica is fantastic marble-shooter that Bonnie proclaimed "sets a new standard for Zuma-style match-3s" in her initial review. Have you rushing off to the App Store? Well, don't bother. Recently, StoneLoops was removed from the App Store by Apple and is no longer available for download. As it turns out, this act was perpetrated by MumboJumbo, the developers of the main genre competitor, Luxor.

According to the developer of StoneLoops, Code Minion (full blog post here), MumboJumbo's reason for doing this was StoneLoops's success. In fact, this assertion seems to be largely substantiated. When they both existed as PC games, Luxor far overshadowed the little-known StoneLoops. However, when it came to the iPhone, the tables turned. Code Minion beat MumboJumbo in the race to the App Store, and StoneLoops enjoyed a sustained high rank in the top paid apps list while Luxor languished.

The full story goes like this: a few weeks ago, Apple relayed Code Minion a formal complaint and request to remove StoneLoops from the App Store, originally filed by MumboJumbo. According to Code Minion, the complaint involved "infringing Luxor copyright, confusing customers, stealing Luxor’s look & feel and even stealing their source code!" Most of these claims are simply outrageous, and if you've ever played the two games, the differences are apparent. Code Minion replied to Apple, refuting the claims that they found erroneous and even offering to change a few things on StoneLoops's app description. Code Minion assumed Apple ruled in their favor when weeks passed without any reply, but discovered otherwise when they learned StoneLoops was no longer available in the App Store.

There are several reasons why MumboJumbo's actions are repulsive and hypocritical. First, of course, Luxor is not an original game. All marble shooters are derived from the 1998 Japanese game Puzz Loop, and most established iteration on the formula is Popcap's 2003 game Zuma. In addition, there are multiple other Zuma-like games on the App Store, though MumboJumbo only chose to attack their closest competitor. Ironically, when Code Minion was deciding on a publisher for StoneLoops, they talked with MumboJumbo before settling on Playcreek. MumboJumbo was shown the game, and never expressed any doubts about possible copyright infringement. This incident sets a dangerous precedent in the App Store that could be easily exploited by other developers.

Please note that MumboJumbo has not yet commented on the incident with their side of the story.

Tris to be Pulled From the App Store Wednesday

Posted by Jeff Scott on August 25th, 2008

Our very well reviewed Tetris clone, Tris, is to be pulled from the App Store Wednesday.

Apparently the copyright holders are none too happy with it and the developers have no resources to fight the legal notice.

So, our advice, grab it now!
[via Two Finger Play ]