Zynga’s lawsuit accused Kobojo of using Zynga’s trademarked -Ville suffix in its PyramidVille game. In the initial complaint, Zynga asserted that companies like Kobojo were trying to steal Zynga’s brand recognition.
This case involves the willful violation of Zynga’s trademark rights by a competitor seeking to exploit Zynga’s hard-earned reputation in the social gaming space . . . Zynga’s games compete on websites and mobile platforms with hundreds of social games. Unfortunately, following the success of the ‘VILLE Family of Games, a number of entites have attempted to adopt names that combine a word that connotes the particular game’s theme, on the one hand, with the distinctive and famous ‘VILLE suffix, on the other. Such entities thereby seek to use names that will confuse consumers, trade off of Zynga’s popularity, and exploit the goodwill Zynga has developed in the ‘VILLE Family of Marks. Zynga has diligently policed its rights in the ‘VILLE Family of Marks against such would-be infringers, i ncluding through the use of cease-and-desist letters, and, where necessary, by instituting opposition proceedings with the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.
Zynga went on to assert that Kobjo had willingly and purposefully engaged in such trademark-stealing activities.
There can be no question that Defendant was fully aware of Zynga’s success and Zynga’s ‘VILLE Family of Games prior to selecting the name for its similarly themed game. For example, on information and belief, more than one of Defendant’s principals had installed and played various games within Zynga’s ‘VILLE Family of Games prior to the release of PYRAMIDVILLE.
After several months of litigation, Zynga and Kobojo have finally come to terms over this lawsuit. Although the exact nature of this agreement is unknown, a representative from Kobojo confirmed through a Gamasutra interview that “Although the terms of the parties’ settlement are confidential, the parties can confirm that neither party made any payment as part of the settlement.”
Notably, however, according to Kobojo’s official web site, the name of PyramidVille has since been changed to PyramidValley.
Analysis: It’s likely that Kobojo’s primary motivation with using the -Ville suffix was just to make a quick buck off of confused consumers, and now that the game is slowly declining in users, Kobojo’s finally willing to give Zynga back its beloved title. From a business standpoint, the damage has already been done, so there’s no point to get in a long, protracted fight with Zynga.
Unfortunately, because the exact terms of the settlement are not public, it’s impossible to know what Zynga might have gotten out of this deal. Unless it was something major, then I think Kobojo successfully pulled a fast one on Zynga by using Zynga’s trademark moniker and then presumably dodging paying the ludicrous damages Zynga demanded. They got a huge initial base of players by using Zynga’s iconic brand (2.2 million DAU) and then had to pay nothing for it.
It seems that being a social games studio is a hard life these days, even for the big guns.