As Apple and Google take a scorched earth approach to Flappy Bird clones, a small development house out of San Francisco is seeking to capitalize on the success that original creator Dong Nguyen was so willing to give up. Along with several others, they are attempting to do so behind the protection of a trademark.
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Flappy Bird could fly again thanks to trademark vultures

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The history of OneClick Studios is brief. The three-man team was founded only a week ago after Mark Li, a man who filed for a Flappy Bird trademark with the USPTO on February 9th, met Paulo Dichone, a developer with an in-progress Flappy Bird clone. You won’t find a website. You won’t find other software from the studio on any app marketplace. No, their plans for the moment consist only of brining Flappy Bird back to the App Store.

As Apple and Google take a scorched earth approach to Flappy Bird clones popping up on their respective app marketplaces, the small development house out of San Francisco is seeking, like so many others, to capitalize on the success that original creator Dong Nguyen was so willing to give up. Like the numerous developers looking to cash in on hobbled together copies of the original, a parent organization of OneClick — along with at least six others — has filed for the Flappy Bird trademark. The legal nugget that Nguyen neglected to secure and has since abandoned would seem to provide enough potential leverage to overcome Apple and Google’s current restrictions.

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But it isn’t so simple. Trademark or not, Li admits the decision ultimately rests in the hands of the app and game store proprietors. OneClick’s Flappy Bird was submitted to both the Apple App Store and Google Play last Friday and has relished in publication purgatory as both companies continue to delete and turn away attempts to make a quick buck off of the original game’s overnight popularity (at its peak, Nguyen estimated he was earning upwards of $50,000 — the maker of Flatty Bird, a Flappy Bird clone for Android, says he earned as much as $100/hour on the game before it was pulled).

Li says OneClick has a legitimate claim for the trademark to Flappy Bird as well as copyright over “original design assets.” Digging deeper though, the development team’s story is one of opportunism that seeks to put a legally binding spin on the same sort of carbon copy games that have popped up in the days since Nguyen removed his app from the App Store, citing the effects the game’s success were having on his ability to live a normal life.

Li, Dichone, and OneClick are no different than Gabriel Joseph Harkham, Neal Blaak, Mad Engine, Mobile Media Partners, and the other individuals and development outfits that have filed a trademark in hopes to grab a piece of the Flappy Bird pie. The only reason OneClick’s filing is potentially more legitimate than the others comes down to the date it was submitted.

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An advance build of the game for Android along with screenshots of the iOS version show the app is no less a blatant clone of Nguyen’s work than any other to pop up in the past week. One could imagine similar appropriations of the game exist at the ready for many if not all of those having filed a trademark for the Flappy Bird name.

Li says a ban based on the name might mean the app is relaunched under a different title, but “it would reduce the value of [OneClick’s] trademark significantly if [they] cannot continue to use it in commerce.” And that would be missing the point of Li’s venture altogether. Chances are if OneClick’s Flappy Bird doesn’t fly, we shouldn’t expect much from the team in the future.

So let’s call this what it is: an opportunistic cash grab dressed in a garb of legalize. That OneClick and others are attempting to trademark the work of Nguyen is an even bolder move than simply releasing a recreation of the original game. Still, the trademark application process can be long and not without its challenges. It will likely be some time before an official decision is handed down. Until then, the choice to ban games taking advantage of the Flappy Bird name and gameplay rests with Apple and Google. Their minds seem to be made up.

 

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