Gamasutra reports that the lawsuit filed by Triple Town developer Spry Fox against 6waves alleged copyright infringement can continue, according to a United States court. The filing claims that, while a game’s idea cannot be copyrighted—”Spry Fox’s copyright gives it no monopoly over this idea”—there were enough perceived infringement of “expressive” elements, such as the game’s theme, element design, and other design elements to allow the lawsuit to continue. From the filing:
Because the allegations of its complaint plausibly satisfy both the intrinsic and extrinsic test, Spry Fox has plausibly alleged substantial similarity between Triple Town and Yeti Town.
6waves has not responded to requests for comment. Spry Fox is continuing to refer to a blog written by their CEO David Edery titled “Standing up for ourselves,” where he explained the rationale behind the initial lawsuit. Spry Fox filed suit against 6waves in January, alleging that the latter not only copied minute details about their game, such as tutorial language and pricing schemes, but actually had private access to a closed beta version of Triple Town while negotiations were ongoing for 6waves to publish it. According to the blog by Mr. Edery, a representative of 6waves sent him a Facebook message cutting off further negotiations the day Yeti Town went live. Soon after the initial lawsuit, 6waves filed a motion to dismiss. Said motion was rejected by this ruling.
6waves has been in the midst of a shakeup of their own. In March, they decided to cut the game development side of their company altogether when they laid off the entire Lolapps company and decided to focus entirely on publishing. Just last week, the company cut more staff from its San Francisco office. Their latest game is the iOS game Throne of Swords.
Analysis: It’s very hard to prove copyright infringement of a video game under United States law since the concept of fair use is well established, so for a lawsuit like this to pass the initial request for dismissal is somewhat telling. Obviously, it’s almost impossible to comment on how I think the lawsuit is going to go because there is simply no predicting how copyright lawsuits will go in America, but even to an untrained eye, and judging from multiple reviews (some of which are quoted in the legal filing), the infringement is so deep that it seems almost impossible for there to be any judgment other than to give Spry Fox financial relief. However, considering the cost of litigation, I see a settlement in the future as 6waves is likely going to take the Zynga Approach: bully when you can, settle and run when you can’t.
What would ultimately get a copycat’s attention is if 6waves was forced to pull their game from all platforms and either refund all or most revenue to the players, or pay that amount in restitution to Spry Fox. However, I see no realistic result in which Yeti Town is destroyed, and that’s what’s going to really matter. Until a company is forced to take a game off the market due to copyright infringement, copycats will spring up at a mile a minute. Hell, Zynga went public doing the exact same thing.