David V Goliath: Zynga v. Night Owl
Maybe there’s something in the air, I don’t know, but it appears a week can’t pass without a game developer launching a law-suit against another. Gone are the days when everyday words are considered free to use, Bethesda has recently lost a lawsuit with Minecraft publishers Mojang, over the use of the word Scrolls. There’s no argument that the Elder Scrolls titles are popular titles but will allowing another company use the word be so detrimental to the games reputation? I don’t think so.
And so, another week, and another mammoth developer tries throwing their weight around. This time it’s Zynga, the publishers of highly popular Facebook games such as Castleville, Cityville, Farmville and Mafia Wars 2. They have said that Night Owl Games (publishers of Dungeon Overlord) have breached copyright laws by using the term “Ville” in their upcoming add-on component, Dungeonville. Zynga does not own the rights to the word Ville, they have made no legal proceedings to do so but they threatened to take Night Owl Games to court if they did not resolve the matter.
Safe to say, Night Owl Games held their ground and refused to give in, thus another court case brawl has commenced. Having read through the proceedings, it’s pretty clear that Zynga doesn’t really have any solid ground to stand on but still, they attempt to bully a relatively new kid on the block into submission, based purely on their reputation. I can’t see them accomplishing anything in court and I for one, have nothing but respect for Night Owl Games for standing up to such an influential company.
We will let you know of any surprise outcome but I wouldn’t expect anything apart from a red-faced Zynga legal team as they make themselves look like novices.
I will leave you with an official statement from a Night Owl Games representative
“Night Owl Games is confident that the federal court will rule that “Dungeonville” is not a trademark infringement. Enforcing a trademark of a common suffix like “ville” is not consistent with U.S. or state trademark laws. We feel that the Dungeonville name used in any way by Night Owl Games is a fair use of the name in the gaming domain. “