Digital Chocolate sues Zynga for Something (which is, over Mafia Wars trademark name)

By Joel Brodie |

No, it’s not an old Seinfeld episode but a real social games lawsuit. Techcrunch has discovered that Digital Chocolate has filed suit against Zynga. Update: Digital Chocolate is suing Zynga over the “Mafia Wars” trademark (Inside Social Games). . . details below.

There are no details yet announced but Techcrunch has determined that it is a lawsuit related to a dispute over intellectual property and/or trademarks. Zynga has released an official statement:

“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.”

This is not the first time Zynga has been involved in a lawsuit. In the past, Zynga was doing the suing, accusing Playdom of hiring employees that stole the “Zynga Playbook” (look for popular games, copy it, add some high production values and flare, add word “Ville” to it, give away tons of free Zynga credits to encourage users to spread to their friends…whoops, did I just share a a copy of playbook, ha ha)?

We have no clue what this lawsuit is about, but since it’s “opportunistic,” maybe it has something to do with CityVille (next Zynga game) or geo-location (all the future rave in social networks now and mentioned in a patent Digital Chocolate Founder Trip Hawkins owns).

Update: My speculation was off. . . . way off. I get brownie points for trying, though.

Digital Chocolate is suing Zynga over the “Mafia Wars” name (Inside Social Games). According to Courthouse News Service, Digital Chocolate owns the trademark for Mafia Wars and that it informed Zynga of such over a year ago. Zynga lawyers promised not to use the name “Mafia Wars” and then started to promote Mafia Wars as part of it’s 7-11 promotion AND filed for two trademarks with the Mafia Wars name.

Fast forward to now, Digital Chocolate has officially sued Zynga to stop using the name Mafia Wars and to spend twice as much as it has spent promoting the game in corrective advertising (I wonder if Snoop Dog is still available).

OK, now that I know the details, here is my take:

  • This is a legitimate and not a frivolous lawsuit. Zynga is known for having a huge army of lawyers and be willing to spend millions of dollars on lawsuits as part of its business strategy. If Digital Chocolate’s legal team and investors gave them the go-ahead to file a lawsuit about the Mafia Wars trademark, they must think they will win because they know they will have to spend millions to prove it.
  • It’s inconceivable that Zynga’s lawyers would send a letter that they will not promote the game name Mafia Wars (thereby creating legal precedence that they believe Digital Chocolate has the trademark) and then promote Mafia Wars on millions of Slurpie cups nationwide. In addition, Zynga’s official statement of being “surprised and disappointed” of the lawsuit and of plans “to defend ourselves vigorously” suggests they believe that the lawsuit is not as legitimate as it appears in court papers. There must be something more to this story. It just makes no sense.

We’ll continue to monitor it when we’re not playing and reviewing games.

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