San Diego – If you are a Facebook user, and chances are pretty good that you are, you’ve likely been exposed to the social networking application called “Farmville.” Developed by Zynga Inc., Farmville now has over 14 million active daily users and 56 million active monthly users. The game’s popularity has been so overwhelming that Zynga has developed a new game called “Cityville”, which has attracted even more users.
Now comes a new social networking game called “Blingville” – but its not related to Zynga. Knowing that Zynga aggressively polices use of the word “Ville”, Blingville LLC filed a preemptive lawsuit asking the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia for a declaratory judgement that its “Blingville” social media game will not infringe on “Farmville” and “Cityville.” After declaring in its motion that it registered the blingville.com domain name in 2004 and filed an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for the “Blingville” trademark last November, Blingville was immediately hit with three cease and desist letters from Zynga. Zynga is claiming that “Blingville” is violating the Lanham Act and that users would be confused as to who developed the game.
Zynga believes that the undeniable popularity of its “ville” games should give the company sole rights to use of the word “ville” for social media games. Lawyers for the company are likely trying to prove that its two games encompass a family of trademarks that use generic “place” words in conjunction with the “ville” suffix and therefore would cause users to believe that “Blingville” is part of the “Farmville” family.
One can argue that Zynga has established a “family of marks” based on the popularity of its games. McDonald’s with “Mc” prefix and apple with its “i” prefix are other examples. This could, however, be tough for Zynga to prove in court. If Zynga had even one more “Ville” trademark its case would be that much better. Still, I wouldn’t bet against Zynga as it definitely has a case to make.
Regardless of the outcome, there is one thing that is for certain, Zynga will be living in “TrademarkInfringementville” for some time.