U.S. Court Rules Against Tetris Clone in Copyright Case

Andy Chalk

One Flag, One Fleet, One Cat
Nov 12, 2002
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U.S. Court Rules Against Tetris Clone in Copyright Case


The ruling against Mino could have far-reaching implications for other videogame clones.

There are plenty of Tetris clones out there - the diabolical Hatetris [http://qntm.org/files/hatetris/hatetris.html] is a particularly good one - but it was the 2009 release of Mino, described by developer Xio Interactive as a multiplayer version of Tetris for the iPhone, that attracted legal action on the part of the Tetris Company. Not long after Mino was released, the Tetris Company filed a lawsuit alleging that the game infringed upon its copyrights, and earlier this month the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey issued a ruling agreeing with the claim.

Judge Freda Wolfson noted in her ruling that Xio's defense was a "purely legal argument that because it meticulously copied only non-protected elements, in particular the rules and functionality of the game, and not its expressive elements, that judgment should be entered in its favor." And although she didn't dispute that "the game mechanics and the rules are not entitled to protection," Xio, in her opinion, went too far.

"This principle does not mean, and cannot mean, that any and all expression related to a game rule or game function is unprotectible. Such an exception to copyright would likely swallow any protection one could possibly have; almost all expressive elements of a game are related in some way to the rules and functions of game play," she wrote.

"To accept Xio's reasoning would give a copyright defendant free reign to copy another's expression, to pilfer another's creativity, merely by describing that expression in sufficient detail related to a rule or a function," she continued. "Tetris Holding made specific and deliberate design choices and its product has enjoyed great success; to allow Xio to profit off that expression, and that success, by blatant copying, without offering any originality or ingenuity of its own, defies the very purpose of copyright law... There was no necessity for Mino to mimic Tetris's expression other than to avoid the difficult task of developing its own take on a known idea."

The ruling could have a major impact on cases like the one currently ongoing between Triple Town developer Spry Fox and 6waves Lolapps, which released a very similar iOS game entitled Yeti Town; Spry Fox sued [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/115568-Triple-Town-Dev-Sues-Over-Cloned-Game] 6waves Lolapps in January, claiming that Yeti Town is a"virtual duplicate" of Triple Town.

Source: Gamasutra [http://www.loeb.com/files/Publication/46f35910-edc0-4749-a7e7-6b5285239339/Presentation/PublicationAttachment/1cc2bbfc-c7d4-4a69-a289-6d03cdcd86ec/testris%20v.%20XIO.pdf]


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evilneko

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Jun 16, 2011
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So Sega's Columns is next to go, right? I mean, the mechanics are pretty much the same. And how about all those other block-stacking games?

In a possibly hyperbolic hypothetical: could EA and Infinity Ward sue each other over Battlefield/COD? After this, possibly!

Also, yeah, this could have a huge impact on the casual/indy side of the industry. Just how many farming and cafe games are there on Facebook anyway?
 

Andy Chalk

One Flag, One Fleet, One Cat
Nov 12, 2002
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I guess the blocks that make up the Tetris clone empire are about to start falling down.
 

Baldr

The Noble
Jan 6, 2010
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evilneko said:
So Sega's Columns is next to go, right? I mean, the mechanics are pretty much the same. And how about all those other block-stacking games?
Even the judge said that some elements are not copyrightable, but "without offering any originality or ingenuity of its own, defies the very purpose of copyright law", the game was an exact clone minus the graphics and music. Stack block is not copyrightable, having the same shapes, column width, row height etc all the same as Tetris all adds up.
 

weirdee

Swamp Weather Balloon Gas
Apr 11, 2011
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i'm simultaneously anticipating and loathing the potential legal fallout, which while exciting (in the sense that one waits for a mass execution), is bound to waste countless hours and dollars on an issue which prior to this case, nobody really cared about, if the allowing of millions of knockoff tetris games has been any sign of this
 

Rossmallo

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Feb 20, 2008
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With a bit of luck, this may expand out into another genre of games like FPSes.

Considering how they all rip off each other, here's hoping they all get lawsuited into oblivion. *gets popcorn*
 

Covarr

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May 29, 2009
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The problem with this is that the judge is essentially saying "Legally, you have done nothing wrong. I choose to ignore the law." This ruling will be so easy to appeal.

P.S. Thanks
 

dalek sec

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Jul 20, 2008
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Roboto said:
Ohhhh, I hope this somehow leads to the destruction of Angry Birds!
How though? I'm pretty sure they were the first one's to think up a game like that. They didn't copy anything as far as I can tell.
 

Weaver

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Apr 28, 2008
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10 minutes later EA now owns the copyright to "aiming and shooting in a virtual environment in both first and third person perspectives."
 

Weaver

Overcaffeinated
Apr 28, 2008
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dalek sec said:
Roboto said:
Ohhhh, I hope this somehow leads to the destruction of Angry Birds!
How though? I'm pretty sure they were the first one's to think up a game like that. They didn't copy anything as far as I can tell.
It's essentially a re-skin of crush the castle.
 

Roboto

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Nov 18, 2009
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AC10 said:
dalek sec said:
Roboto said:
Ohhhh, I hope this somehow leads to the destruction of Angry Birds!
How though? I'm pretty sure they were the first one's to think up a game like that. They didn't copy anything as far as I can tell.
It's essentially a re-skin of crush the castle.
And, not wanting to sound like a prick who knows everything even though he didn't do any research, CTC was probably in itself a reskin of an even older concept. Not sure if the reply was sarcastic or not but assuming it isn't, CTC is the one I was thinking of but didn't want to be the one to say it if in fact it was a reskin itself. If Armorgames wants to stand up and point a finger in the air, this is their chance. If they don't, well, there is the answer to my question earlier.

Most unique captcha ever... oontz oontz, aka the partyboy dance sound effect.
 

theultimateend

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Nov 1, 2007
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Roboto said:
AC10 said:
dalek sec said:
Roboto said:
Ohhhh, I hope this somehow leads to the destruction of Angry Birds!
How though? I'm pretty sure they were the first one's to think up a game like that. They didn't copy anything as far as I can tell.
It's essentially a re-skin of crush the castle.
And, not wanting to sound like a prick who knows everything even though he didn't do any research, CTC was probably in itself a reskin of an even older concept. Not sure if the reply was sarcastic or not but assuming it isn't, CTC is the one I was thinking of but didn't want to be the one to say it if in fact it was a reskin itself. If Armorgames wants to stand up and point a finger in the air, this is their chance. If they don't, well, there is the answer to my question earlier.

Most unique captcha ever... oontz oontz, aka the partyboy dance sound effect.
And if I had to choose between one of those two games dying...CTC is not only as monotonous as Angry Birds but it handles like turd.

Honestly if I ever get off my ass and finish a book or a game and someone makes a way better one with a better theme etc...I'll tip my hat.

Copying piece for piece and just being able to over market someone is a dick move, making a way better version of something else is progress and pretty much the entire mechanism for the progress of Art.

AC10 said:
10 minutes later EA now owns the copyright to "aiming and shooting in a virtual environment in both first and third person perspectives."
5 days later indie companies are making games where you play a character through the eyes of another character.

2nd Person Shooters!
 

Clearing the Eye

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Jun 6, 2012
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I'll look into this a bit. Hopefully it's not yet another sign that copyright laws in many Western countries are just plain inane (hey, that rhymes :D).
 

Baldr

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Jan 6, 2010
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weirdguy said:
i'm simultaneously anticipating and loathing the potential legal fallout, which while exciting (in the sense that one waits for a mass execution), is bound to waste countless hours and dollars on an issue which prior to this case, nobody really cared about, if the allowing of millions of knockoff tetris games has been any sign of this
Alexey Pajitnov created the game in 1984 while working for the USSR. The copyright rights at the time belong to the USSR government agency ELORG, which remained the rights up until 2009 when Pajitov and the The Tetris Company bought them back from the Russian government. The ELORG didn't really go after Tetris Clones in the past, now that The Tetris Company has the rights, they are going after every Tetromino game/clone.

Pajitov really didn't make much money from the game in the late 80s/90s, I'm glad he got the rights back and can start making money of a game he created.