The Tetris Company gets free Tetris clone ‘Tris’ removed from Apple’s App Store

“Well — I’ve received notice from Apple that they’ve been contacted by The Tetris® Company about Tris. That, I’m afraid, is essentially game over. Do they have a case? No. Not really. I am convinced that if it went to court, the ‘copyright’ claim would get thrown out completely. The trademark, perhaps not — but if I changed the name, to e.g. ‘Trys,’ that would be much harder for them to argue,” Tris developer Noah Witherspoon blogs.

“The trouble is, I’m a college student, and not an affluent one, and I simply do not have the time, energy, or resources to fight this battle right now. There’s a point at which I am willing to give up and be practical, to let the world have its way with that ever-mistreated little ideal of ‘principle.’ Thus, it’s with great sadness that I must announce that I’ll be pulling Tris from the App Store on Wednesday, August 27th, to remain in Apple’s systems but publicly unavailable until I work out a solution to this,” Witherspoon writes.

“A few last words on the subject, then. I don’t believe The Tetris® Company consider themselves to be acting in bad faith. 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. The Tetris® Company are protecting their own interest; without a name that meant something to license, they would have, as I understand it, no significant assets at all,” Witherspoon writes.

“That said: the approach they’re taking seems to me little more than petty bullying. They have little to no legitimate legal claim, and are, presumably, relying on my being a small developer with insufficient resources to defend myself. And — hey ho — it appears to be working. All I can suggest is that, if you have the slightest interest in playing Tris, you download it while you still can,” Witherspoon writes.

“To clarify: if Apple had not told me they’d ‘take action’ of their own if I didn’t resolve the ‘dispute,’ Tris would be staying up. I don’t think this will be permanent; 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,” Witherspoon writes.

For the next few hours, Tris in Apple’s U.S. iTunes App Store is here.

[Attribution: MacNN. Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Terry” for the heads up.]


  1. Change the name.

    There’s a Mac OS X Tetris® clone, Quinn, that had a similar problem. If I remember correctly, they mentioned Tetris™ in their Read Me and that was enough for the Tetris© Mafia to sick the dogs.

    Once the developer removed all references to Tetris, problem gone.

    Quinn is quite nice. I even remember the original black and white version.

  2. Current owners of the original Tetris are very protective of their property. If you look at Tetris’s history, you’ll understand; many legal disputes regarding ownership of the game had surrounded much of its famed existence. Not surprising, since Tetris is the most popular game for any platform ever made, by a wide margin (no WoW can come even close).

  3. Here’s a novel idea. Instead of trying to rip off the work of others, scrabulous style, try inventing something yourself! I know it’s a bummer we can’t all make a buck on the backs of others while we play games and smoke reefer all day long, but that’s life dude.

  4. Once upon a time Steve Jobs said, “It’s better to be a pirate than join the navy.”

    How sad that spirit of defiance has waned and all that is left is this new Apple that far more closely resembles a makeshift government than the engine of change and innovation it once did.

    I cannot think of a development platform that is more controlled than the iPhone.

    People who purchase the iPhone might as well face the fact that they are purchasing a license to do only what Apple and AT&T;allow.

    With their strong centralized control of the iPhone, Apple has managed to make DRM on media files look like a mild nuisance in comparison.

    While I’m sure the lemmings will continue to march in lockstep to Apple’s tune, I have a feeling that most of the innovative developers will drift toward the LINUX/Open Source based Android mobile device platform, which will allow applications to be developed by anyone, and distributed by anyone.

    With the iPhone Apple is policing every imaginable aspect, including what THEY determine to be culturally appropriate. (Cough)Murderdrome(cough).

    I never thought the time would come when Apple made Microsoft look “friendly.”

  5. Here’s an idea. Get the Tetris company to buy it from Witherspoon and then charge 99 cents at the app store for it. One guy gets some cash and recognition for his efforts, the company gets cash for their game and the people who love it only have to pay 99 cents for it….which is NOTHING!
    Everyone winds….damn I am good. Now I will start working on world peace and what women really want.

  6. I think tetris is a stupid game but i’m downloading tris because tetris is a stupid game solely supporting an even stupider company. I’ve never understood the allure of tetris. Heck, Minesweeper is a better game.

    MW: tris is now “added” to my Applications

  7. The Mac crowd (myself included) has interesting and varied thoughts when it comes to protection of creative rights. When Microsoft copied (poorly) the Mac OS look and feel, right down to some details, the Mac community was up in arms. The group collectively was pissed off when Apple’s lawsuits failed in the courts.

    Yesterday we had a discussion regarding the RIAA/MPAA, which flowed over into the rights of record companies, DRM, and other such discussions. On that topic, we were all over the board, from “DRM is the right of the record company” to “it should all be free”, among other things.

    Today we’re talking about the rights of a copyright holder for the idea of a game. Tetris was invented in Russia in 1985, and the original inventor, Alexey Pajitnov, really didn’t get any money for it. Flash forward to today, where The Tetris Company (co-owned by Pajitnov) claims to hold copyright on it. However, according to The Library of Congress, you can’t patent a game, so any patent claim they have is invalid. So now the original creator holds the copyright. Seems fair right?

    Parker Bros. has recently been successful at keeping Scrabble copies off of the net. They’ve done the same with Monopoly. They own the creative rights. TTC owns the creative rights to Tetris. In fact, one could argue that they are more deserving of the rights to Tetris because the creator actually owns the company.

    So, what do you think? Should Pajitnov and TTC have the rights to Tetris? If not, do you think that Microsoft would be right to be able to copy (more than they do) everything in Mac OS?

    Interesting thoughts for a Tuesday?

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