Zynga Becoming A Trademark Bully: Threatens Blingville For Daring To Use 'ville'

from the get-over-it dept

Zynga is really building up quite a reputation as a trademark bully lately. The company, which also has a reputation for copying everyone else, got into a legal fight last year after it copied the name of its game Mafia Wars, from another company who had that. The two companies had come to an agreement earlier, which Zynga simply decided to ignore. And now it's stretching its trademark bullying in more ridiculous ways, claiming that no one else can append "ville" to any social media game. It sent a cease & desist to the company that runs Blingville (which has had the domain for many years). Eric Goldman alerts us to the news that the company behind Blingville, has hit back by filing a lawsuit against Zynga (full filing embedded below) asking the court to declare that Blingville doesn't infringe on any Zynga trademark. What I really don't understand is why Zynga is acting this way. It has no reason to be a trademark bully, and doing so only makes the company look petty.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 19th, 2011 @ 6:30am

    While you may not like the implications, Zynga does has a pretty solid standing here. Their products are well known as "'ville" products on facebook and on their sites. Someone putting up a competing product as a Facebook app called "something ville" would likely create confusion in the market place, at least in the short term.

    It doesn't pass the old "moron in a hurry" test, as plenty of morons would think that blingville is a new game from those farmville guys.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 19th, 2011 @ 6:33am

    If they succed then Lycos Gamesville should sue the pants off Zynga.

     

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  3.  
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    Randy (profile), Jan 19th, 2011 @ 6:40am

    So the fact that Blingville has been around since 2004 doesn't pass the test? While the "moron in a hurry" might assume that blingville is right up there with farmville, the fact that they've been around prior to the 'villes would win in my book. Sorry Zynga doesn't have much of a case here.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 19th, 2011 @ 6:47am

    Re:

    blingville has been on Facebook since 2004? Do tell!

     

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  5.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Jan 19th, 2011 @ 6:50am

    So...

    Company who copies other games and adds social elements gets upset at somebody who makes similar game?

    Hypocrite, much?

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 19th, 2011 @ 7:05am

    There newest game; Scumbagville. You get to be a complete douchebag to everyone else. I suspect the game will do well...

     

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  7.  
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    Jeff, Jan 19th, 2011 @ 7:07am

    Hey Zynga!

    Hey! Sue BurgerVille while you are at it too!

    Then! File bankruptcy!

     

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  8.  
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    Pixelation, Jan 19th, 2011 @ 7:26am

    Bazynga

    I guess Zynga should sue CBS too because on "The Big Bang Theory" they say Bazynga.

     

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  9.  
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    Qritiqal (profile), Jan 19th, 2011 @ 7:41am

    Re:

    So, the fact that another company has been using "xxxville" for years doesn't matter to you?

     

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  10.  
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    Yeebok (profile), Jan 19th, 2011 @ 7:44am

    Re: Re:

    You read the article carefully, didn't you ? Nobody suggested that Blingville had anything to do with facebook. In fact, if it doesn't, that's a positive.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 19th, 2011 @ 7:47am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Except when I go to their site (existing since 2004!), all I see is a logo and "New Facebook Game Coming Soon!" With links to join up the beta (maybe even alpha) testing.

    It sort of suggests that they have something to do with facebook.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 19th, 2011 @ 7:48am

    Re: Re:

    Have they been using xxxville (whatever it is) for years as a facebook social game?

     

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  13.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Jan 19th, 2011 @ 8:39am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Can you separate trademark markets into something as small as facebook social gaming market? I always figured separation of trademark was more broad then that, like cars and games.

     

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  14.  
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    wnyght (profile), Jan 19th, 2011 @ 8:42am

    From a company stand point of comparing apples to oranges... who cares if some other company has an orange that they painted red and happens to look like your apple?

    This reminds me of that whole IHOP thing when the restaurant chain was pissed at the "international house of prayer."

    I mean really, who cares? I really don't see what difference it makes.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 19th, 2011 @ 8:49am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Well, it depends on how you slice it. A trademark applies to what it applies to. In this case, Farmville and it's ilk are basically "online social gaming". They aren't comedy websites (say comedyville as name, not real) and they aren't aren't a town (so no problems with Fayetteville, example).

    However, in the narrow market of facebook related social games, "ville" games are known to be Zynga games. Someone coming along and opening another "somethingville" social game on facebook is standing very, very close to an existing trademark (and in fact, an existing series of trademarks). It is pretty easy to make the argument that the new company is attempting to play off of the goodwill created by Zynga with their various "ville" games, and thus while they don't have specifically that name trademarked, there is a clear case for confusion in the marketplace.

    That's why there is a Mr Clean,and no Mrs Clean, because the confusion in the market place would be easy to spot.

     

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  16.  
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    Pete Austin, Jan 19th, 2011 @ 9:31am

    Site is just an advert for a Facebook game

    Re: when I go to their site (existing since 2004!), all I see is a logo and "New Facebook Game Coming Soon!"

    I see the same, and the only links are to Facebook. Also it seems the page previously said "Blingville, Coming 2010", since last April.
    http://webboar.com/www/blingville.com

    Is there any evidence this was ever a real, functioning site?

     

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  17.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Jan 19th, 2011 @ 10:15am

    Re:

    You get to be a complete douchebag to everyone else."

    I thought that was called the internet.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 19th, 2011 @ 10:21am

    Regardless of who had what for how long and what is commonly known as part of whatever company "ville" is a suffix known throughout many languages. With that said there should be no trademarks upheld upon it IMHO.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 19th, 2011 @ 10:26am

    Bring it on down to homelessville!

     

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  20.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Jan 19th, 2011 @ 10:38am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    That's what I'm saying, your slicing the markets too small. You're trying to say that Blingville flash based web game is in a different market from Farmville flash based facebook social game. They're not, they're both just games.

    I guess before I continue with this argument I should probably ask this: What was Blingville in 2004? Was it a web game or was it just a squatters page? There's no information about what was before. If they were a flash based game that decided to move to Facebook, then there's no trademark issue here. If they were a website that sold car parts then recently decided to make a game, then it may be a problem (facebook relationship not required), if we assume that you can trademark *ville.

     

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  21.  
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    Mr. Oizo, Jan 19th, 2011 @ 1:33pm

    Dogville ?

    How about the movie dogville ?

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 19th, 2011 @ 1:42pm

    Zinga really is.. the ville-ain

     

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  23.  
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    Cougrrr, Jan 19th, 2011 @ 2:09pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You say that like Zynga invented "ville" as a suffix, though. How can they honestly try to hold claim to exclusivity on a TM that is a suffix used in many parts of the world?

    FarmVille (CityVille, etc.) REPRESENT groups of users acting together to create a "village" atmosphere, hence the ville. As such, they're trying to trademark what... a village?

    You wouldn't say that Nashville, Knoxville, Louisville, and so on have the rights to sue Zynga for digital representations of cities even though they used the names WELL BEFORE 2004. What about papers that wrote about Hoovervilles in the great depression? You wouldn't say that they should be able to sue Zynga.

    They have the TM to their game names, sure, but the suffix they use is a common Latin derived suffix that has been used the world over. Suing based on that is just plain stupid.

     

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  24.  
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    alternatives(), Jan 20th, 2011 @ 8:08am

    Cubeville and justiceville for the wins

    I so await Cubeville - only playable from your timezones 9-5 (unless you pick janitor or security guard. Weekends the IT staff can play) and Justiceville where you are a judge who clicks on lawsuits about trademark names can get you to the Supreme Court!

     

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  25.  
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    charliebrown (profile), Jan 20th, 2011 @ 10:34am

    News just at hand, it is revealed that there is a city in Australia called TOWNSVILLE! Now, really, doesn't that just sound like the name of a Zynga game? (And, no, it is not named after the city that the PowerPuff Girls live in)

     

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  26.  
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    PB, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 11:16am

    Maybe they should sue California... isn't there a "Bonneville"?? Or how about Pontiac?

     

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  27.  
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    Gamer, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 11:44am

    Unbelievable! Zynga has only 5 games that have ville in it while there are more than 20 additional games on Facebook that have ville in them that aren't owned by Zynga.

    How can they think that they own a common word like ville.

    That's ridiculous

     

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  28.  
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    Ron, Jan 21st, 2011 @ 7:02am

    i do believe the hold the rights to the word VILLAN though

     

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  29.  
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    Gamer, Jan 21st, 2011 @ 11:28am

    Re:

    Or they may think that Farmville is a game from the Blingville since they had the ville name first

     

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  30.  
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    Just saying, Jan 22nd, 2011 @ 8:12am

    Re:

    Would that same moron think that Louisville (KY) is a game by Zynga too? I'm suprised that Zynga hasn't sent Louisville a cease and desist letter too!

     

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  31.  
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    Zynga is a Bully, Jan 22nd, 2011 @ 8:23am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Really?!? There are over 25 ville games on Facebook and Zynga only has 4 or 5. Doesn't sound like Zynga's cornered any market.

    And, considering their actions with Farmtown and Mafia Wars, you think they would clean up their own act instead of bothering others.

     

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  32.  
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    Just saying, Jan 22nd, 2011 @ 8:29am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Who cares if they have anything to do with Facebook or not. That shouldn't matter. Ville is not a word that can be owned by someone and it is total arrogance on the part of Zynga to think that they can own it.

    Its time that Zynga started to operate with integrity, not only Blingville but with Mafia Wars and others too. Why do they think they need to stoop to these underhanded tactics to keep there game going? It just isn't necessary or appreciated by those of us who use their games.

     

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  33.  
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    page howe, Jan 24th, 2011 @ 6:57am

    zynga had a choice

    when they chose ville as their suffux there were already existing sites and games with that address, they had a choice and when they made that choice they had to realize that the ville suffix wasnt going to be their exclusively

    myopic right isnt always worldwide right

    if their logic holds tru than any other game started before their company actually becomes the bigger fish and can sue them for all that are or acquire

     

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  34.  
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    guest, Jan 26th, 2011 @ 5:19am

    Read items 14 and 18. You lose Zynga.

    Better luck next time.

     

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  35.  
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    person that thinks zynga is out of their minds, Jan 28th, 2011 @ 9:41am

    zynga doesnt own the right of ville there are many more games with the ending of ville and zynga has done no such thing to them bakra ville has never had any conttac to zynga and its just messed up zynga would do this its just an ending its not like their taking the name farmville and making a new one zynga has to go somewhere

     

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  36.  
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    Meme, Jan 28th, 2011 @ 9:54am

    Zynga keeps pissing off their customers, it won't matter anyway.

     

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  37.  
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    Jen, Jan 28th, 2011 @ 1:53pm

    That's really stupid... Zynga copied Farm Town and Restaurant City and brought out their own versions in Farmville and Cafe World. They are just games geeze not to mention they make billions of dollars off of people already!

     

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  38.  
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    Supporter, Jan 28th, 2011 @ 5:07pm

    Go Blingville!!!!

     

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  39.  
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    theawesomeone, Jan 29th, 2011 @ 2:02pm

    ok well i was looking at facebook and sence the copmony that supportysblingville is not well know zinga problay will win the case BUT iz blingville wins THEN ZINGA SUCKS

     

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  40.  
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    Guy, Jun 21st, 2011 @ 11:33am

    Sheesh...

    WHAT THE HECK IS ZYNGA DOING???
    Sheesh, the irony lies so thick on nit that you can put a spoon in it.
    All they ever do is making stuff like Farmville and such, and then copy the game, change the graphics and the name from "ville"to "town"and launch the game.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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