Google pulls an Apple and removes Tetris-type games from Android Market

Google pulls an Apple and removes Tetris-type games from Android Market

Summary: With big companies protecting their brands, will we see Google pulling more indie apps from Android Market?

TOPICS: Mobility, Apple, Google

I'm never surprised to read notices of apps being pulled from Apple's App Store. After all, the company has made a point of doing what it wants to do, without comment most of the time. However, a recent post about Google removing some apps made me take notice.

According to, Google received a notice from The Tetris Company, LLC that under the DMCA the company should remove various Tetris clones from the Android Market. It turns out there were more than 35 of them, and they have all now been taken down.

The interesting part about this news story is that not only did Google do the taking down--the company is traditionally not in the habit of openly being a protector of big companies--but also that technically, the idea of a game in not protectable.

Since I’m not an attorney, I reached out to Doug Wolf, Co-Chair Trademarks, from Wolf Greenfield. I have asked Doug to comment before on the iPad trademark and thought it would be a nice add-on for this piece. I have quoted him below: [disclaimer: Doug has advised me in the past]

"Copyright law protects the expression of the game rather than the idea. In other words, the look and feel, the presentation, colors, and arrangement are all protected under copyright law. On the other hand, the idea of the game is not protectable. The problem for people making Tetris-type games is understanding where the copyright protection ends.

Considering that copyright rights in games can be difficult to separate from the game idea, the significant level of damages in copyright cases, and that Google does not need these games for its customers, taking down the games is an easy decision.

The Copyright Act does not involve trademarks which are the brands. That is a different area of law, and in fact there could be "fair use" of trademarks which allow some display of the brand. Also, the test is different under trademark law - whether the consumer would be confused as to source of the game. All of this makes for a different analysis and possibly a different decision from Google depending on the game."

From the above it sounds like Google took the easy way out. These independent developers don't have the financial resources to fight either Google or The Tetris Company, LLC, so the games will probably remain unavailable for the foreseeable future. Then again, perhaps they'll show up in either open source or in some other form in the future?

I hope that this latest move by Google isn't a sign of things to come. In the case of the Android Market, I was hoping that Google would actually use some of its own resources to really look at what its developers are offering and protect them, if appropriate. After all, Google really needs Android developers, especially in the Android Market. If developers feel like their apps could get pulled at any time, they will be even less inclined to develop for the platform.

Topics: Mobility, Apple, Google

Joel Evans

About Joel Evans

With more than 15 years of mobile, Internet and wireless experience, Joel specializes in taking existing brands and technologies into the mobile and wireless space. Joel is currently the VP of Strategy Integration for Mobiquity, an enterprise-class mobile solutions provider.

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  • This is far from "pulling an Apple"...

    You said yourself why google took it down - they were served a DMCA notice. Now, do I agree with the decision of google? No. Should google have told Tetris LLC to kiss off? Yes. However they were complying with the law - whereas Apple likes to do things on a "whim". The whole app approval process is nothing more than a "wish and a prayer" to get it through there. Even still Apple will just come along and remove it - far from what google has done. Thanks.
    • Why "kiss off" Tetris LLC? It is their IP; ***NO*** to theives

      @JT82: Tetris Company LLC co-owned by original Tetris creator.
    • RE: Google pulls an Apple and removes Tetris-type games from Android Market

      @JT82 exactly.
  • There is a HUGE difference here, though...

    I can still install and play those games on Android. They simply aren't available in Market. Granted, being available in the market has its advantages but being removed from Android Market is not the death sentence it is in Apple's market.
  • Tetris wannabe app removal is no big loss

    It was the right move and the right thing to do by Google. I don't think Android needs Tetris wannabe games in the first place. Nothing is more annoying than having to wade through a sea of garbage copycat applications, and the their poor implementation of the real deal. Though I hate Tetris as a game they do have a right to make money on their product. Nice to see Google cleaning some house. I would love to see support for innovative new games that make a difference instead of a remake of the same thing.
    • And what if the copy is superior?

      @YeomanDroid Tetris LLC is not exactly known for making GOOD Tetris games, especially in comparison to the free alternatives out there. The IDEA of the game isn't copyrightable; that's what patents are for, and their patent ran out a while ago. The fact of the matter is, they aren't willing to compete with other developers on even ground, so they're taking the cheap way out and trying to block the competition. If all of these Tetris clones called themselves Tetris (which some might have), or used art or sounds lifted straight from another Tetris game owned by Tetris LLC, then they have a valid reason to serve a takedown notice - but I'm sure only a few of those games actually infringed copyright. For the rest, it's simply Tetris LLC flaunting their lawyers and trying to keep the competition away.
  • RE: Google pulls an Apple and removes Tetris-type games from Android Market

    What the article needs to clarify is whether the game author can file a response under the DMCA and get the game restored. This is the case with Google's YouTube.
  • Darn that Eric Schmidt! What a control freak!

    He's ruining my life! He's telling me what I can buy and what I can't buy. Man, talk about a walled garden! I thought Google was open and good, but they've obviously gone over to the dark side. Oh, nooooooo! Waaaaah! Waaaaaaaaaah!!!
    /sarcasm, in case you didn't catch it
    • That's hilarious...


      ...of course, I'm being sarcastic.
      • RE: Google pulls an Apple and removes Tetris-type games from Android Market

        @tricktytom So his sarcastic rant did not sound familiar at all? Rang no bells? That is almost the exact same thing that the anti-apple trolls said when Apple got rid of the porn apps, the same thing when Apple got rid of apps that were artificially given stars by the developer of those apps... but since this is Google and Android that makes it okay. As NZ would say Cue the Double Standards.
      • Um well

        @athynz. well to be fair, Google's response is due to a DMCA. On the flip side Apple reasons are their own, but again well within their right to decide what paths and markets they want to penetrate, and I think Apple is still defining that.
  • So much for freedom. Android goes walled garden. Again

    But I am sure the Rose Colored Google wearers will say what a wonderful thing this is.
    • RE: Google pulls an Apple and removes Tetris-type games from Android Market


      Yippee! Tetris clones removed today, porn removed tomorrow. :)

      Google should have fought to keep Tetris available for download instead they caved.
  • Is it my imagination, or...

    ...are we blowing this WAY out of proportion? Blocking an app for legal reasons doesn't even come CLOSE to blocking one for ideological ones. Nobody TOLD Apple to block apps, they do it of their own free will.
    • RE: Google pulls an Apple and removes Tetris-type games from Android Market

      @tricktytom Apple do it under the terms and conditions of their SDK, no doubt Google is using their SDK to pull these applications.
  • Google not being a protector of big companies?

    Google [i]is[/i] a big company, so...
    John Zern
  • did the games also get zapped off the devices?

    im curious to know if those who downloaded them lost them
    Johnny Vegas
    • If it works like the iDevice App Store,

      then people that previously downloaded and backed up what went away shouldn't have any worries. I have a couple of programs that are no longer on the App Store (including Tetris clones) that work in iDevice OS 3.1x, 3.2, and the 4.0 preview just fine. Even the infamous tethering app that was released the day the app store opened, and then killed by AT&T 3 days later, still works on my buddy's iPhone 3GS (Note I said AT&T and not Apple, as AT&T is the reason the US market still doesn't have sanctioned iPhone tethering).
  • RE: Google pulls an Apple and removes Tetris-type games from Android Market

    Whatever. Once you get the 2.2 Froyo update, you can just go play a flash version of any Tetris clone you want, for free.
    • RE: Google pulls an Apple and removes Tetris-type games from Android Market

      As long as that's ALL you want to do, or until it crashes your browser. ;-)

      I think the point is that there perhaps ARE legitimate reasons for removing apps from an application repository... And perhaps Apple is doing what it thinks is the correct business decision as well?
      If you've given up on Apple, and now you give up on Google, what's left??? :-) Time to accept some reality.