Zynga sues French game publisher for copyright infringement

Zynga has asserted a claim on the "ville" family of marks

Game maker Zynga sued a French competitor, alleging that by using the suffix 'ville' in the name of its game, Kobojo wilfully infringes on its trademark rights and is seeking to exploit its social gaming reputation.

Zynga, which has produced a range of what it calls ville-family games such as CastleVille, CityVille and FarmVille, has filed a lawsuit against Kobojo before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California over Kobojo's use of the name PyramidVille for its online and mobile game, according to court documents.

It said the lawsuit was filed to ensure that Kobojo stops confusing consumers who are likely to think that PyramidVille is a Zynga game because of its resemblance in name and type of game to the games Zynga offers, the filing said.

Kobojo refused to remove the suffix upon request, and is in the process of expanding the scope of infringement by launching a mobile version of the game, Zynga said in the filing last week. Both PyramidVille and Zynga's ville-games are adventure games which encourage the user to interact with other gamers and play together online.

More than 100 million people play on one of its ville-branded games per month on Facebook, other social websites and mobile platforms, Zynga said. In contrast, PyramidVille is used by 6 million Facebook users, Kobojo said in a press release in January, announcing the release of the game for mobile platforms.

Kobojo did not respond to a request for comment on the U.S. litigation.

The case is not the first time Zynga decided on legal action against other game makers for the use of the 'ville' suffix, the company said in the court documents.

"Zynga has diligently policed its rights in the 'VILLE Family of Marks against such would be infringers, including the use of cease-and-desist letters and, where necessary, instituting opposition proceedings with the United States Patent and Trademark Office's Trademark Trial and Appeal Board," the company said in the filings.

Zynga has applied for trademark rights for the mark "VILLE" but the USPTO suspended the application on May 3.

The makers of the games Dungeonville and Blingville have sued Zynga preemptively in the past seeking declaratory judgement that they did not infringe on Zynga's marks. The litigation brought by Dungeonville maker Night Owl Games was dismissed on March 19 by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, indicating the case was settled.

The litigation between Zynga and Kobojo is similar to a trademark infringement dispute between Apple and Amazon over Amazon's use of Appstore for its online store of applications. A California court denied Apple's motion for a preliminary injunction on Amazon.com's use of the term last year, allowing Amazon to keep using the term, at least until October this year when the trial for the case was set.

An initial case management conference between Zynga and Kobojo has been set for July 24.

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Loek Essers

IDG News Service

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