Put “-Ville” in a Mobile App’s Name. Risk Litigation From Zynga.

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By Kim-Mai Cutler Comment

Zynga, the social gaming giant that is famously trigger-happy with litigation, is getting defensive about names ending in “-Ville” on mobile platforms like iOS and Android.

Latman Interactive, a small developer behind a paid hidden object game called Quackville, said it received a noticed from Zynga, asking it to change the name of its game and rescind an application to trademark the name. Zynga declined to comment on this.

However, here’s an e-mail excerpt from a lawyer working on behalf of Zynga to the studio’s chief executive Richard Latman:

To summarize, Zynga is concerned that you have adopted a trademark that shares very close similarity to its popular game names CITYVILLE, FARMVILLE, FRONTIERVILLE, PETVILLE, FISHVILLE and YOVILLE.  Your trademark application for QUACKVILLE claims only “downloadable computer game software.”  We believe there is a strong likelihood that consumers will confuse QUACKVILLE with Zynga’s –Ville marks, shown above.  Therefore, we must insist that you voluntarily abandon your trademark application and game name.

Latman says he won’t take his application down or change the name of his game. His studio is seven-person boutique firm that isn’t his main source of income. Quackville has about 300 people connected to it on Apple’s Game Center, while his follow-up app Qach gets about 6 to 7,000 downloads per day. He says he started the studio to build games for his daughter and the company’s first game was done to essentially learn how to make games. Quackville and Quackville Lite went live in Apple’s app store in May and July of this year.

“Why would they pick on a little developer that doesn’t necessarily have a commercially popular app?” he said. “We’re still learning how to make games, which is why this is so confusing to me. Why would we even be on their radar? This is tremendous example of example of a giant firm picking on the little guy.”

He says he doesn’t believe Zynga has a monopoly on game names ending in “-Ville” and will oppose the company’s requests.

“We will go to court to prove prior art and hopefully stand up for the small developers,” Latman said.

Zynga has a lengthy history in aggressively litigating against those it believes infringe on its intellectual property. It settled a long-running suit against rival Disney-owned Playdom a year ago after a former employee defected to the company, allegedly taking trade secrets with him. It’s also currently embroiled in a lawsuit against Brazilian social gaming company Vostu.

Other mobile developers that have found success have also tried to protect their brands through legal means. Doodle Jump-maker Lima Sky has pursued the makers of other apps with the word “Doodle” in their names.

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