Digital Chocolate Sues Zynga Over Mafia Wars Name
The latest social gaming lawsuit has surfaced, although it’s accompanied by fairly little detail for now. Digital Chocolate has brought suit against Zynga over the name “Mafia Wars”, which Digital Chocolate has a trademark on from a little-known iPhone game (shown at right).
The timing of the suit reflects that Digital Chocolate has just begun moving some of its development resources from the iPhone to Facebook. However, the complaint may date further back.
Courthouse News Service appears to have been first to spot the Justia listing of the case. Their summary:
Digital Chocolate claims 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, according to the 69-page federal complaint…
Digital Chocolate wants Zynga enjoined from using the Mafia Wars name, and ordered to deliver up all Mafia Wars products and “engage in corrective advertising” costing twice what Zynga spent promoting Mafia Wars.
According to an attorney Inside Social Games asked about the filing, the presiding judge may have already ordered it into alternative dispute resolution — meaning the two companies will have to enter mediation or arbitration. However, if they can’t reach a settlement the case could still go to court.
Of course, Mafia Wars has already been the center of several other cases. A smaller developer called Psycho Monkey last year alleged infringement on Mob Wars, a title it won rights to from SGN, by Zynga’s Mafia Wars; the case was settled. Zynga, in turn, sued Playdom and several former employees for allegedly stealing trade secrets. Law.com ably detailed these suits, along with several others, in June.
Digital Chocolate hasn’t yet responded to a query about its filing. A Zynga spokesperson offered the following statement about the case: “We are surprised and disappointed by Digital Chocolate’s lawsuit. The timing of the action appears to be opportunistic, and we plan to defend ourselves vigorously.”