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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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