Despite being available on Facebook for over a year without incident, Zynga has filed suit against French developer Kobojo, alleging the name of Kobojo’s game PyramidVille infringes on Zynga’s intellectual property rights.
Zynga has a history of pursuing legal action against developers who add “Ville” to their games’ titles, but what makes this case surprising is the delay. PyramidVille launched in January 2011, and Zynga filed suit on May 7, 2012. Zynga tells us it felt legal action was necessary after Kojobo refused to change PyramidVille’s name.
Zynga may also feel the need to sue now because of how rapidly Kobojo has managed to expand the PyramidVille brand. The game was a modest hit when it first launched on Facebook, but Kobojo has since gotten the game onto smartphones and into Arabic-speaking regions. Published via Peak Games, مدينة الأهرامات (“City of the Pyramids”) is the No. 2 Arabic game on Facebook, currently boasting 2.4 million monthly active users and 470,000 daily active users. The localized version is very close to passing the peak numbers posted by the original English language version of PyramidVille, which saw 2.9 million MAU and 610,000 DAU in June of last year. Zynga doesn’t have an Arabic language presence on the Facebook canvas.
While expanding PyramidVille, Kobojo has also expanded its business, securing $7.5 million round of funding last year that the developer used to open new studios in Berlin and Madrid. Kobojo also told us at that time that it would push out a slew of new titles for Facebook and mobile during 2012, with some light investment in developing HTML5 games.
Zynga’s main obstacle is that it doesn’t hold the trademark for the word “Ville.” The company is currently trying to secure the trademark, but the process is still working through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Zynga filed for a trademark of the phrase “With Friends” in 2011, with similar results.
Historically, trademark lawsuits over words or phrases in a name have been difficult to win. Case are typically settled out of court or languish for years after being filed. For example, Zenimax recently settled its suit against Minecraft developer Mojang, which claimed the upcoming title Scrolls infringed on the trademark of The Elder Scrolls games. Active Network sued Electronic Arts over the latter’s Wii game Active 2.0, but no results were ever announced afterwards. Tim Langdell of Edge Games was notorious for suing anyone who used the word “Edge” in a title, but this strategy eventually backfired and several of his trademarks were canceled in 2010 after he sued Electronic Arts over Mirror’s Edge.
We’ve reached out to Kobojo for a comment, but haven’t received a reply at the time of writing.