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Zynga Threatening To Sue Blingville Over Trademark Infringement
Zynga Threatening To Sue Blingville Over Trademark Infringement
January 24, 2011 | By Eric Caoili

January 24, 2011 | By Eric Caoili

Zynga, maker of popular social games like FarmVille and CityVille, has sent several cease and desist letters to Blingville, accusing the independent developer of trademark infringement.

In a complaint submitted by Blingville to a West Virginia U.S. District Court and posted by Techdirt, the Harpers Ferry-based developer said it began receiving cease and desist notices from Zynga last November. BlingVille also claimed Zynga has threatened legal action if it failed to comply.

Zynga has released the most popular applications on Facebook in the past two years, collecting over 295 million monthly active users on the social network and publishing six games with "Ville" in their titles: CityVille, FarmVille, FishVille, FrontierVille, PetVille, and YoVille. It's preparing a virtual currency reward program for its players called RewardVille, too.

Blingville, which has a self-titled game on Facebook under public beta testing, claims another company, Overtime Apps, registered a domain name in October 2004 and filed a trademark registration for the title in November 2010. Overtime Apps then "assigned all of its right title and interest in and to the 'Blingville' name and trademark application to BlingVille".

"Zynga does not own and has not registered or applied for any trademark registrations at the USPTO for any trademark rights in the word 'Blingville' or any word marks similar thereto," argued the studio in its complaint. "Blingville's use of the trademark 'Blingville' in its social networking game constitutes a fair use of the trademark."

The independent developer added, "Zynga has asserted, and Blingville denies, that Blingville's use of the trademark name 'Blingville' in its social networking game violates the [Lanham (Trademark) Act] with respect to Zynga or any of Zynga's trademarks or its social networking games containing the letter combination of 'ville'."

Though Zynga has only threatened to file a lawsuit, Blingville is asking the court to declare that its use of the Blingville trademark name does not infringe any of the FarmVille maker's trademarks. It's also asking the court to order Zynga to pay its "attorneys' fees, costs, and expenses incurred as a result of [the] controversy created by the cease and desist letters."

[Update: Zynga's deputy general counsel Jay Monahan provided Gamasutra with the following statement: "We regret that BlingVille LLC has chosen to move forward with a social game called BlingVille despite our advance notice to them of our rights.

Use of the name 'BlingVille' is an obvious attempt to capitalize on the fame and goodwill associated with Zynga's family of "ville" games which includes FarmVille and CityVille. We are prepared to take all necessary steps to protect our intellectual property rights."]

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Peter Christiansen
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The city of Louisville, Kentucky has been issued a similar cease and desist warning from Zynga's lawyers.

Tiago Rodrigues
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I live in Joinville, Brazil. I guess I should be worried.

Tim Carter
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However, if you make a game called Joinville, then yes, you might get in trouble with them.

Dragos Inoan
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Those people in New York City are surely screwed.

Todd Boyd
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This sort of corporate arrogance and assertion of that arrogance is becoming increasingly commonplace nowadays. I seriously hope this gets nipped in the bud soon, or the future looks rather bleak. (Of course, it looks bleak for many other reasons... but this doesn't help.)

Andrew Hopper
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Welcome to Loserville, population: YOoooooooooou!

Gregory Kinneman
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And this is following Zynga actually directly copying other farm based games in creating Farmville?

I understand that a wave of poorly made social games with "-ville" in the name could damage the credibility of Zynga's existing -ville games, but this would be no different than the excellent Roller Coaster Tycoon versus all the awful business-sim "tycoon" games. Also, if this BlingVille is successful, it's probably free advertising for Zynga anyway, since people will look at the game name rather than the publisher/developer name. Thus, I can see why a cease-and-desist could be in their best interest, but I doubt that Zynga can make the case stick, especially with so much history in game naming schemes.

Lennard Feddersen
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They don't need to make the case stick. As a small developer Blingville may not be in a position to pay the legal costs to ward Zynga off.

Crappy, predatory behavior by Zynga.

Thomas Grove
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This is even more vapid than the Edge Games case in 2009.

Rey Samonte
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If Zynga was smart, they'd avoid suing Smallville.

Zack Agifan
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I will be filing a friend of the court brief against Zynga in this case. Calling Zynga's conduct anything but absolutely disgusting is plain wrong

Execution on the various social graphs including Facebook is ubiquitous. Every properly executed product uses social channels for promotion and certainly every properly executed game is a social game. Zynga doesnt own the property of other developers on all ville games. This aggression will not stand

Zack Agifan
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LOL at Zynga filing a trademark days after Funzio

This aggression will not stand. Do not go down this road Zynga. You do not own the free speech, the pursuit of happiness or property of 7 billion people of humanity

On should not that even in the facebook ecosystem, just a part of the social graph, games with the ending of city and life, like Train City, Paradise Life, Sorority Life, Crime City comes from different developers and even Playdom didnt start trying to take a dump on people

LOL @ Zynga claiming to own a naming scheme centuries old. Jay Monahan you're a scumbag

Megan Swaine
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They copied "Farm Town" and called it "Farmville". 'Nuff said. :P

Kris G
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