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ID: 223927


Date: 2022-01-12

Wordle and IP law: What happens when a hot game gets cloned

Apple is belatedly purging copies that were clogging up the iOS App Store. Today, all of those copycat apps are gone, the apparent result of a belated purge by App Store reviewers following some social media attention. But this likely doesn't mean the end of Wordle clones. Those quick removals paper over the complicated legal and social landscape surrounding copycat apps and the protections developers can claim on their game ideas. Conveniently, none of this history provides a legal problem for Wordle itself. "Whenever you have a copyright, you're protecting the expression, not the idea," Dallas attorney Mark Methenitis told Ars. "It's a line a lot of people have a very hard time with, especially when you get into games." Separate from copyright or patent, a trademark could at least legally protect the name Wordle from being exploited by copycats. But unlike copyright, which applies automatically when a work is published, trademarks offer very limited protection until and unless they are registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office. That has left the "Wordle" trademark legally up for grabs, a situation that a company called Monkey Labs Inc. has taken advantage of. On January 7, that outfit filed its own trademark application for "Wordle," claiming ownership of the name for "downloadable computer application software for social networking, namely, for posting, showing, or displaying information in the field of electronic gaming via the Internet, namely, software for playing word puzzle games. " There could be grounds to get that trademark canceled for commercial misrepresentation under the 1947 Lanham Act, but any such legal argument could be an uphill battle. That's especially true because other games and apps used the name prior to Wardle's creation. There are currently three games on the iOS App Store—Wordle! , Wordle - Word Puzzle, and Wordles— that predate the Wardle version by years. While none of these have any mechanical similarities to the current viral hit, they have as much of a claim to the historical use of the "Wordle" name as anyone.