Social Web Game Company Digital Chocolate Files Suit Against Zynga for Mafia Wars

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Casual iPhone games publisher, Digital Chocolate, is going after its high-profile competitor, Zynga, in court. Digital Chocolate is known for the games found on the Web, Facebook, Xbox LIVE and a full range of mobile phones (including the iPhone). The company believes Zynga has violated its intellectual property rights and/or trademarks. 

The story was first reported in TechCrunch, although specific details surrounding the suit seemed to be out of reach at initial reporting. For its part, Zynga has already made a comment, although has refused to share details about the point of the lawsuit.

The only thing we know right now from this company is that Zynga is surprised and disappointed by the lawsuit and referred to the timing as opportunistic. Zynga plans to defend itself vigorously.In court documents obtained by TechCrunch, it seems that Digital Chocolate is filing suit over the Mafia Wars patent. The company maintains that Zynga “falsely claimed to the public, the United States Patent Office and the courts that it ‘coined’ the Mafia Wars mark and owns superior rights to the mark.” 

Digital Chocolate, it seems, holds the rights to the name Mafia Wars – a mobile game that is largely unknown compared with Zynga’s raving success by the same name. Digital Chocolate also claims that it notified Zynga of the naming conflict last year and that it was told in writing that Zynga would stop using the name – which it clearly did not. 

It appears that Digital Chocolate does hold a couple of trademarks in the United States and a quick check through Google Patents search (completed by TechCrunch) revealed that only one patent has been issued to Digital Chocolate. This patent was published in 2006 and listed William “Trip” Hawkins as one of the inventors. Hawkins is the founder of Digital Chocolate and former founder and CEO of Electronic Arts.

In March, Digital Chocolate announced the launch of Safari Kingdom on Facebook, the leading social networking site. Safari Kingdom will give users the chance to create and build their own safari while they care for different wild animals.Is it possible that Digital Chocolate resents the success Zynga has had on Facebook while its own apps have largely gone unnoticed? If not, why did the company wait so long to file this lawsuit? Only time will tell if it holds weight, but it may leave some wondering about motive.
Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TechZone360 and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Erin Harrison
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