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Digital Chocolate Files Suit Against Zynga For  Mafia Wars  Infringement
Digital Chocolate Files Suit Against Zynga For Mafia Wars Infringement
August 25, 2010 | By Eric Caoili

August 25, 2010 | By Eric Caoili

Developer Digital Chocolate filed a lawsuit against rival social games studio Zynga for trademark infringement, unfair competition, and other charges concerning the Mafia Wars trademark.

Digital Chocolate says it created a mobile game titled Mafia Wars in 2004, three years before Zynga opened its doors. The firm has since put out three sequels, most recently Mafia Wars New York in April 2009, and claims that more than 2 million consumers worldwide have downloaded games from the series.

Zynga launched its own Mafia Wars game in 2008, making the title available on a variety of platforms, including MySpace, Facebook, and iPhone. Compared to Digital Chocolate's series, Zynga's game is much more popular, bringing in almost 28 million monthly active users on Facebook alone, according to figures from AppData.

Though Digital Chocolate says it sent a notice to Zynga in January 2009 demanding the developer end its use of the name -- and received a response in May 2009 from Zynga admitting it didn't claim trademark rights for Mafia Wars -- Zynga filed an application with the U.S. Patent Trademark Office to register the trademark two months later.

"Despite being on notice of Digital Chocolate's senior rights and infringement claim, Zynga repeatedly misrepresented to the USPTO that no other entity owned or claimed rights in the Mafia Wars mark," alleges Digital Chocolate in its court documents filed with California's Northern District Court and posted by Courthouse News Service.

Digital Chocolate continues, "Through duplicity and bad faith, Zynga has effectively hijacked the Mafia Wars mark from Digital Chocolate and is aggressively marketing its games under the Mafia Wars mark to Digital Chocolate's substantial detriment."

The plaintiff studio goes on to point out additional examples of Zynga allegedly suggesting or outright claiming its ownership of the Mafia Wars trademark, and accuses the rival developer of purposely attempting to "create a likelihood of confusion with regard to and/or trade off of Digital Chocolate's Mafia Wars mark".

Digital Chocolate is claiming federal/common law trademark infringement, federal/state/common law unfair competition, false designation of origin, and cyber-squatting in its lawsuit against Zynga, and is seeking damages to be decided at trial, attorney's fees/expenses, and the transfer of the domain name.

The developer adds, "[The] defendant has been unjustly enriched and should be ordered to disgorge any and all profits earned as a result of such unlawful conduct."

Zynga, which has spent the past several weeks advertising and celebrating the launch of its Mafia Wars Las Vegas expansion, responded to the suit in a statement earlier today: "We are surprised and disappointed by Digital Chocolate’s lawsuit. The timing of the action appears to be opportunistic, and we and plan to defend ourselves vigorously."

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Tawna Evans
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I remember playing Mob Wars by Zynga first, and it was pretty good. Later, I tried a Mafia Wars application (not made by Zynga), and it seemed dull. Afterwards, Zynga replaced Mob Wars with Mafia Wars. It was basically Mob Wars with a different name. I don't get why the name for the game got changed to an existing Facebook game's name.

Kimberly Unger
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I was wondering how long it would take DChoc to get grumpy about the Mafia Wars titling.

Tawna Evans
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Er, I had the facts wrong. Zynga's Mafia Wars started as a clone of Mob Wars, and Zynga didn't own Mob Wars. However, before Zynga's Mafia Wars came into existence, Digital Chocolate had another game on Facebook called Mafia Wars. It required fighting other players in order to progress in the game-- no solo quests. I didn't care for it. Anyways, months later, Zynga came up with their Mob Wars clone entitled Mafia Wars.

Maurício Gomes
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Cool, clone the name, clone the game, profit...


Todd Boyd
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Welcome to every pay-to-play version of (not-)Tetris anywhere, ever.

Raymond Amarantus
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Wow. Seems like Mafia Wars has been doing nothing but causing everyone a headache lately, themselves especially. First the advertising SNAFU in San Francisco, and now this.

Brad Borne
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Name every single casual game the blandest, most generic name you can think of, and there's some overlap. Imagine that.

Mark Venturelli
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Zynga copied the game from Mob Wars and the name from Mafia Wars. Such a joy of a company.

kevin wright
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Its ok- at this rate they will put themselves out of business in record time. Developers in the game-space don't take kindly to thieves and usurpers. And they will distance themselves- it's already happening.

Good riddance.

Leo Gura
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Developers aren't the audience, Facebook users are. And they couldn't care less.

"...put themselves out of business in record time"? Zygna is imminent to go public with a market cap of over $1B!

Krasimir Koichev
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Zynga "reportedly" received between 100 and 200M from Google. So their war chest is full to the brim, be it litigation or acquisitions.