Digital Chocolate is suing fellow social games developer Zynga in the US over Zynga’s game Mafia Wars. Digital Chocolate, which released its own Mafia Wars cell-phone game in 2004 (5 years before Zynga’s Mafia Wars), argues that it owns the rights in Mafia Wars and that Zynga has knowingly infringed those rights. Digital Chocolate claims that Zynga has “falsely claimed to the public, the United States Patent Office and the courts that it ‘coined’ the Mafia Wars mark and owns superior rights to the mark.”
According to Courthouse News, Digital Chocolate claims that it “notified Zynga last year that it owned rights to Mafia Wars. Zynga attorneys responded with a letter promising to stop using the name, then the company launched a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign with 7-Eleven to promote the game, and filed two trademark applications to register the Mafia Wars mark for a range of products, from beer mugs and napkins to sweatshirts and hats”. Pretty explosive stuff.
Digital Chocolate is seeking an injunction prohibiting Zynga from further trademark infringement (i.e. stop selling Mafia Wars).
This is another in an increasingly long series of lawsuits in the social games industry. Nicholas Lovell at GamesBrief wrote a good summary on social games lawsuits back in 2009. On that front, it’s worth bearing in mind in particular that this isn’t the first time Zynga has been involved in litigation over Mafia Wars – in 2009, Zynga sued Playdom over allegations that Playdom had released misleading advertising that created confusion between its Mob Wars and Zynga’s Mafia Wars.
There is certainly is a lot at stake here. According to AppData.com, Zynga’s Mafia Wars currently has the 5th highest amount of Monthly Average Users (at approx 25 million) on Facebook games (does anyone have details on Mafia Wars’ revenue etc?). That makes it a pretty high-profile target, so it will be very interesting to see where this goes next…
Digital Chocolate’s Complaint is available here.
Image credit: Zynga/Techbucket
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