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Tetris Holding, LLC v. Xio Interactive, Inc.

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 05-30-2012
Case #: 09-6115
Wolfson
Full Text Opinion: http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=7039389566875417792&hl=en&as_sdt=2&as_vis=1&oi=scholarr

Copyright: The Merge Doctrine does not prevent authors from creating copyrightable expressions of rules or concepts.

Opinion (Wolfson): Xio Interactive, Inc. (Xio) developed an iPhone game named “Mino.” Tetris Holding, LLC, copyright owner of the famed game “Tetris,” alleged that “Mino” imitated “Tetris,” and infringed its copyrights, amongst other claims. Both parties moved for summary judgment. In the game “Tetris,” players guide an increasingly faster moving geometric block, called a “tetromino,” into rows on the bottom of the screen. Tetris Holding, LLC had given the rules of “Tetris” to the public domain. Xio admitted that “Mino,” a named inspired by “tetromino,” was meant to be a multi-player iPhone version of Tetris; however, Xio argued that the blocks and other formal elements of Tetris were uncopyrightable, because they were mere extensions of the rule or function of the game, and belonged to the general scènes à faire of the puzzle-game genre. The Court found that the movements of the blocks in Tetris were not merely functional, but expressions associated with those elements. Using the example of another “Tetris”-esque game, “Dr. Mario,” the court found that “Tetris” was a unique expression of the puzzle-block video game genre, and warranted copyrighting. After finding substantial similarity in the color, shapes, style, and movement of the blocks, the court GRANTED Tetris Holding, LLC’s motion for summary judgment, and not Xio’s.