Skip to main content

Court case on Tetris IP infringement has wide-reaching implications for App Store clones

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Cloning successful games is nothing new. It is, in all honesty, the foundation of the modern video game industry. Space Invaders beget Centipede and Super Mario Bros. beget, well, thousands upon thousands of games where some little cartoon person ran from left to right jumping over stuff. Imitation has always been the sincerest form of flattery in video games, and it’s fueled innovation. The very first version of John Carmack’s engine that would eventually power Wolfenstein 3D and Doom was built to run a copied version of Super Mario Bros. 3 and it was used for the Commander Keen platformers.

In the age of the iPhone and the App Store though, game cloning has become a little bit more sinister. Since it’s so easy to get a game up on the App Store, blatant recreations of successful titles show up at an alarming pace. Some of these games even go so far as to copy the name of the imitated game. By last summer, there were so many clones of Angry Birds on the App Store, that Business Insider did a feature on them.

The legality of these clones is finally coming into question though. A federal court in New Jersey found in favor of the Tetris Holding LLC in its case against XIO Interactive. XIO Interactive’s game Mino, pictured above, was found guilty of infringing on copyrights held by the Tetris Holding LLC relating to the game Tetris. Surprise, surprise. Mino has since been removed from the App Store.

As detailed by attorney Jack C. Schecter of Sustein, Kann, Murphy & Timbers LLC (via Edge) though, what’s impressive about the court’s decision in this case is that Xio lost even after admitting that its game was a direct copy of Tetris. Xio said that it invested heavily in the study of copyright law and decided that Mino was protected by the idea-expression dichotomy. As Schecter explains, this means “copyright law allows for protection to be given only to the expression of an idea, not the idea itself.” Since Mino didn’t copy Tetris at the code level, Xio figured it was protected even though it blatantly copies Tetris’ rules.

This is only a small case though and it likely won’t have broad reaching implications for the video game industry. Creators ripped off by shyster studios looking for a quick buck on the App Store won’t be barred any time soon. It is proof that progress is being made toward protecting some people’s hard work. When cases like Spry Fox versus 6waves pop up in the future, there will be important precedent to explore.

Editors' Recommendations

Anthony John Agnello
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Anthony John Agnello is a writer living in New York. He works as the Community Manager of Joystiq.com and his writing has…
Sonic Dream Team’s next free update adds a new zone and ranking system
Sonic swings on a bar in Sonic Dream Team.

Sonic Dream Team is getting a significant free update on Wednesday, April 17, that will add more levels and a ranking system. The update for the Apple Arcade exclusive comes on the heels of layoffs at developer Sega Hardlight, which was impacted by a recent restructure at Sega.

Sonic Dream Team launched as part of Apple’s iOS game subscription service in December. Though it’s only garnered a handful of critical reviews since then, including a positive one from Digital Trends, the platformer has received positive praise from Sonic fans (it currently has an 8.8 user rating on Metacritic). This week’s update is Sega Hardlight’s biggest content drop for the title.

Read more
This satisfying $7 mobile puzzle game is money well spent
A box in Boxes: Lost Fragments has an octopus on it.

If you're looking for a new mobile game that'll keep your hands busy and you have $7 to spare, Boxes: Lost Fragments is money well spent.

Developed by Big Loop Studios, Boxes: Lost Fragments is a moody puzzle game where players are tasked with opening 20 intricately designed, themed puzzle boxes, all while unearthing a creepy gothic narrative. If that sounds a lot like The Room series, it is. You can either read Boxes as a total ripoff or a respectful homage, but one thing is certain in either case: It's extremely satisfying.

Read more
The PS5 Pro may be coming even sooner than we thought
Two versions of the PS5 next to each other.

An enhanced PlayStation 5, colloquially known as the PS5 Pro, is all but officially confirmed now, with a new report revealing that dev kits for the enhanced console are in the hands of developers and that Sony wants games for it ready by August.

Last month, internal documents revealing the specs of the PS5 Pro leaked. It won't offer a massive leap in power, but it will have a better GPU and some new machine learning technologies, and it should make things like ray tracing and stable frame rates much more possible with games made for the PS5. On Monday morning, The Verge released a report affirming the leaked specs and confirming that PS5 Pro dev kits are now in the hands of more developers.

Read more