Black Powder Media, maker of such iOS games as Vector Tanks and Vector Tanks Extreme, recently had both games unceremoniously pulled from Apple's App Store after mainstream publisher Atari reportedly filed a copyright infringement claim. A cursory look at games in the Vector Tanks series reveal games that bear some visual resemblance to Battlezone, an arcade-cabinet offering released by Atari in 1980.
Black Powder Media is claiming that "Anything that has even a passing resemblance to an Atari classic has been issued a copyright infringement claim." The developer outlines the situation in great detail on the Vector Tanks 3 Kickstarter page.
"It looks as though Apple complied without so much as a rebuttal or independent evaluation," the developer states. "Tank games, asteroid shooters, and so on have all been pulled," they claim, though no specific examples of other developers' banned works are offered.
Black Powder Media still has plans to move forward with the game known until recently as Vector Tanks 3 (shown above). Called "The Visceral Adventures of Vic Vector," the team is confident that changes to location and enemy types will make it "'new classic' that cannot fall under the Atari claw."
Atari has since issued a response to Joystiq, regarding the claim that they had targeted "hundreds of apps," for infringement. You'll notice that it's far more justification than denial.
For companies like Atari, our intellectual property portfolio is our most valued asset. While we have great respect for the indie developer community and greatly appreciate the enthusiasm that they have for our renowned properties, we need to vigorously protect our intellectual property and ensure that it is represented in highly innovative games. We have been actively engaging with numerous established and up and coming developers to help us re-imagine our iconic franchises, and outside app developers have already helped us produce two top 10 mobile game successes in Asteroids: Gunner and Breakout: Boost. We look forward to further developing strong relationships with the indie app development community through additional games that we will be releasing in the future.
We're not too sure of the validity of Atari's claims, but their legitimacy is likely a moot point. Apple has already been complicit in unceremoniously removing at least a couple of apps cited by Atari, and we've yet to encounter an indie developer who could afford to fight a juggernaut like Atari over something like this in court.