Dave Wardle a software engineer created a word game for friends that went viral from 90 daily players in November to 300,000 at the beginning of January, to 2 million by the 3rd week of Jan.
Although he was not in it for the money, others spotted an opportunity and soon a flurry of copycats launched on the app store, many of them charging a fee.
Apple have a policy for this sort of thing, but as Wordle is web based and not an app they did not know how to deal with it. However, Apple has now confirmed it has removed any copycat apps from the store.
Josh Wardle is not in it for the commerce, so he did not think about the IP. If he had then he would have faced a few issues:
So Wordle is difficult to protect with IP, but it was never designed for commercial purposes so this may be OK for Josh Wordle.
The key point, however, is once you have chosen a commercial path, with IP it is difficult to retrace your steps and for example if it were desired to convert the Wordle success into a commercial venture protected by IP, it would not be possible.
As long as that's the case we should expect many more Wordle clones.
Footnote: The New York Times purchased the game, ultimately, I guess to entice users to subscribe to the paper. The New York Times with its lawyers and reserves will be in a much stronger place to deal with copycats, however the same IP issues remain, just that more resources makes it slightly easier.
For those who are game players:
Players begin by guessing any five-letter word.
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