Top Facebook game developer Zynga was sued for copyright infringement by rival Psycho Monkey last February. It was accused of copying the popular — and lucrative — Mob Wars game in its own creation, Mafia Wars. That case was only recently settled, but in the meantime, Zynga has turned around and filed 22 copyright and trademark lawsuits against other developers.
One suit, against leading rival Playdom, has been gaining some attention. But Zynga has also sued other well-known developers, including Greenpatch Inc, makers of (Lil) Green Patch and the increasingly popular (Lil) Farm Life — that suit was the most recent, filed on August 7th. July was a far busier month, when Zynga filed 14 suits.
However, many of the defendants are clearly not in the right. All of the July lawsuits, for example, appear directed at individuals who operate second-hand poker chip sites. These companies are trying to resell virtual poker chips in and out of Zynga’s poker applications on Facebook and MySpace. This activity blatantly breaks the company’s terms of service, if not state and federal gambling laws.
Neither Zynga nor other companies we’ve spoken with have commented on the lawsuits. Zynga is, of course, the dominant app developer on Facebook. It has nearly 110 million monthly active users across its Facebook apps — although some of those users are double-counted — and we’ve heard it’s on track to make upwards of $200 million in revenue this year. The next largest developer rival, Playfish, has less than half the number of portfolio-summed users, with 51.5 million actives.
Zynga’s size means it is both the biggest target — including for developers looking to rip off its brand, code or virtual goods. But its size, and revenue, also means it can best afford to be the plaintiff in lawsuits.