Free iPhone Tetris Clone Pressured Off iTunes by Apple, Tetris Company

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Independent developer Noah Witherspoon has revealed that his free Tetris-esque iPhone puzzler Tris will be removed from the iTunes App Store this Wednesday, following a strongly worded letter from Apple sent on behalf of The Tetris Company.

The Tetris Company, which owns and licenses the Tetris property, accused Witherspoon of violating its copyright. Witherspoon added that Apple was poised to "take action" if he did not resolve the "dispute" of his own accord.


Left, Noah Witherspoon's Tris. Right, EA Mobile's Tetris.

"The approach they're taking seems to me little more than petty bullying," Witherspoon wrote on his blog. "They have little to no legitimate legal claim, and are, presumably, relying on my being a small developer with insufficient resources to defend myself."

While he was confident that the claim could be challenged in court, Witherspoon opted to remove the game due to his lack of funds and status as a college student.

However, he appeared understanding of The Tetris Company's action. "The lack of protection for the idea of a game is troubling, in that it promotes quick ripoffs of a concept that someone, somewhere, spent a lot of effort on," reads his entry.

"I don't think this will be permanent," Witherspoon concluded. "When I have the time and can find a good copyright lawyer, I'll be figuring out exactly what my position is and how I can make Tris available again."

Until then, Tetris-craving iPhone and iPod Touch users will have to make do with EA Mobile's Tetris, which sells for $9.99 and was made under license from The Tetris Company.

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From The Chatty
  • reply
    August 25, 2008 8:12 PM

    No legitimate claim? Um. Tetris is owned by The Teris Company. So yeah, they have every right.

    • reply
      August 25, 2008 8:14 PM

      you cant copyright game ideas

      • reply
        August 25, 2008 8:56 PM

        Exhibit A has blocks aligned in a intersecting fashion in multiple colors of different sizes and clusterings which move down a screen and are rotatable while being able to cluster into larger blocks for points of a scoring system.
        Exhibit B designed and published in the early 80's has blocks aligned in a intersecting fashion in multiple colors of different sizes and clusterings which move down a screen and are rotatable while being able to cluster into larger blocks for points of a scoring system.

        "They have little to no legitimate legal claim, and are, presumably, relying on my being a small developer with insufficient resources to defend myself." No they are relying on a previously claimed copyright and or trademark to a ip of a look and feel and interaction and a licensing agreement to other 3rd parties how's that?


        • reply
          August 25, 2008 9:00 PM

          the thing is they dont have a copyright on it

          • reply
            August 25, 2008 9:20 PM

            If this guy gets his way, it basically means that I can go and take Ratchet & Clank Future, slap a different logo and name on it, and I can't be sued?

            Wrong.

            • reply
              August 25, 2008 9:36 PM

              I don't know all of the ins and outs of copyright law or how it pertains to the history of Tetris, but since Ratchet & Clank Future has lots of copyrighted elements and it sounds like Tetris does not, the analogy falls flat.

      • reply
        August 26, 2008 6:28 AM

        you can copyright the original expression of an idea.

        or something.

    • reply
      August 25, 2008 8:22 PM

      agreed; haven't they (and previously ELORG) been pursuing copyright infringers for decades?

    • reply
      August 25, 2008 8:24 PM

      whoever used bullets in games first should be the only one then

    • reply
      August 25, 2008 11:35 PM

      You can't copyright ideas.

      I also don't see it infringing on the "Tetris" trademark because the game is called Tris, not Tetris.

      This is all complete bullshit.

      • reply
        August 25, 2008 11:44 PM

        what i was told when i started to make games was "tris" was the important part of the name that you cant use. you could call it tetblocks or tet-wall, your name just couldn't contain the "tris" bit. But I may have been mistaken

        • reply
          August 26, 2008 12:19 AM

          you're right you can call it tet-whatever, but not whatever-tris

          but i think theyre trying to sue based on something else, cause Noah could then just rename it tetclone or whatever. I wish he would try and fight it just cause I think this is such a grey area I'd love to see how it would turn out

      • reply
        August 26, 2008 1:15 AM

        If there's a strong visual resemblance then that's grounds for legal action as well, especially when there's money involved (like when people are grabbing the FREE version instead of the licensed one).

        But then, the Tetris Company may not have a leg to stand on and are simply firing from the hip and hiring a scare-lawyer. We'd have to know the exact wording/limits of their copyright.

        • reply
          August 26, 2008 2:08 AM

          A strong visual resemblance is not grounds for legal action.

          As far as I understand the only thing The Tetris Company holds is the trademark for "Tetris", it has no patent or copyright for the game's visuals or mechanics.

          It's just a scare tactic, and if wikipedia is any indication they've done this before without any legal success.

        • reply
          August 26, 2008 3:01 AM

          Apple didn't have much luck against MS Windows with their "look and feel" lawsuit. I support protecting copyrights, but I also support reverse engineering. I'm not sure what is really copyrightable about this game other than the name.