Doodle Dash! + Copyright Infringement... Really?

Playfirst, Inc. contacted Apple claiming that the use of the word “Dash” in my title infringes on their copyright of the word “DASH”. As a result, I’ve removed Doodle Dash! from sale until this whole thing gets resolved.

Playfirst, Inc. does in fact have the word “DASH” trademarked (US Reg No. 3,719,384); however, I’m using the word descriptively, also in conjunction with “Doodle” and an exclamation point so I don’t personally see how the title of our game can actually be considered “infringement”.

I can see why they have a problem though. Most of their games (and there’s a lot) are “Something” Dash, such as Diner Dash. Regardless, I still don’t think that’s entirely fair. My game obviously isn’t copying them, and I did not intend to leverage the success of their apps by naming it similarly.

In fact, the logic behind naming the game went something like this:

  • “Doodle” to describe the game’s visual style.

  • “Dash” to describe the fast-paced gameplay.

  • ”!” to inspire a sense of urgency, thus supporting my use of the word “Dash”

The very definition of the word DASH in the English dictionary is overall very descriptive of the game:

to run or travel somewhere in a great hurry.

And anyone who has played the game can attest to the fact that the character in the game does exactly the above, and throughout the entire course of gameplay.

Apple didn’t order me to remove my game. In fact, they gave me two options:

  • Contact Playfirst, Inc. and get it resolved without the need for Apple to step in.

  • Or prove to Apple that my game does NOT in fact infringe on Playfirst, Inc.’s copyright.

They gave me five days to respond, which I’ve already done. I also emailed the representative at Playfirst, Inc. to see if we can work things out, just to see if they’re capable of being fair, but I’m keeping my expectations low.

A similar (though not exact) case that someone brought to my attention was that of Tim Langdell, which apparently set precedent that you can’t sue for trademark infringement for one English word like “Dash” (or in his case, “Edge”) when the products are nothing alike.

UPDATE: I guess the reason Tim Langdell lost his battle was because he wasn’t producing any works with his trademark (which is grounds for losing it) and was using false documentation to defend his case. So I guess the the whole Langdell thing is irrelevant, but interesting nonetheless.

What mostly irked me about this whole situation is the fact that Playfirst, Inc. decided to go straight to Apple in an attempt to get my game removed without ever attempting to contact me! Apple attached the email that was sent to them from Playfirst, Inc. and it reminded me of a whiny little kid trying to get his way by going straight to the top and not even attempting to settle things respectfully at the lowest level possible.

My level of respect for them would be way, way higher right now if they would have at least sent a courtesy email to me, or—God forbid—asked me to take my game down and gave me their reasons why I should.

It could have went something like this:

Dear Jonathan,

We understand you have a game published in the iTunes App Store titled, “Doodle Dash!”. We own the copyright for the word “DASH” and feel as though the title of your game, which follows a similar naming convention used in many of our games, is infringing on our trademark.

We ask that you remove your game from the app store and rename it so it doesn’t conflict with our titles. If you don’t respond within 5 days, we will be forced to contact Apple, Inc. with this matter.

Thank you for your time and understanding.

Sincerely,

Playfirst, Inc.

I guess something like that would have been a complete waste of their time.

Seriously, is that the real difference between indie game developers and non-indie game developers?

Well enough ranting. I’ll just hope for the best while I patiently wait for their reply. In the meantime, I’ve removed Doodle Dash! from sale (I didn’t delete it, so it can go back on sale at any moment, but for the duration of this incident it’s not available). Hopefully I’ll hear from them very soon so we can get this settled.

The fact of the matter is, I’m an indie, and they’re a corporation. Expect Doodle Dash! as we currently know it to be gone for good. If that happens, I’ll make some major improvements to the game, rename it, and make it free for the first month it’s live just so everyone who purchased prior to the name change can still get it for free.

Doodle Dash! was our best selling app.

UPDATE #1: I’ve exchanged some emails with Playfirst, Inc. and have decided to remove Doodle Dash! from sale for the time being while I issue an update with a name change. The update will also feature more stable performance, and much better gameplay.

The whole thing is unfortunate, but I’ve learned my lesson. Read my advice on avoiding trademark issues in the app store if you don’t want this to happen to your apps.

UPDATE #2: Doodle Dash! has been renamed to Tilt Monster and is now live in the app store.

As promised, it has much better performance, many more features (unlockable items, moving enemies, retina graphics, playable characters, more leaderboards/achievements, etc.) and is much more addictive… so thanks, Playfirst, Inc., for inspiring us to make our game so much better!

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