EA sues Zynga for copyright infringement

EA sues Zynga for copyright infringement
Seth Tipps

By Seth Tipps

August 3rd 2012 at 9:00PM

The Ville has 'unmistakable resemblance' to The Sims Social, claims publishing giant

EA filed is suing Zynga alleging that similarities between The Sims Social and TheVille amount to copyright infringement.

The case is being levelled against the social games maker on behalf of Maxis, and comes after months of tension in the industry over copycatting in the social games space.

The two companies have been battling for market share over the past year, with titles going head-to-head for users, and both parties all but naming each other as the intended target of a social gaming coup.

"When The Ville was introduced in June 2012, the infringement of The Sims Social was unmistakable to those of us at Maxis as well as to players and the industry at large," said Maxis general manager Lucy Bradshaw.

"The similarities go well beyond any superficial resemblance. Zynga's design choices, animations, visual arrangements and character motions and actions have been directly lifted from The Sims Social."

This is not the first time Zynga has faced copycat allegations, and Nimblebit (Tiny Tower) and Bufflalo Studios (Bingo Blitz) have both made very public accusations against the social gaming giant.

Nor is this the first time Zynga has been taken to court over such claims.

The company was forced to settle with Digital Chocolate over similar allegations concerning the trademark of Mafia Wars, and was also sued by SocialApps, which alleged that Zynga had infringed on Slashkey's Farmtown in creating its landmark title, FarmVille.

Zynga itself won a settlement against Brazilian studio Vostu, and has filed another suit against French publisher Kobojo over the use of "Ville," of which Zynga claims ownership.

The official court filing makes ample use of this long history in making the case that Zynga employs theft as a business strategy.

"Zynga turned to its well-known competitive playbook: 'Steal someone else’s game. Change its name,' then cross-promote the Zynga clone to its extensive user base," reads the document, referencing an article appearing in SF Weekly.

"It has been widely reported that much of Zynga’s current position in the online social gaming market is not the result of creativedevelopment and innovation, but rather has been achieved through cloning rivals’ games."

Acknowledging the long history of complaints, Bradshaw says the case comes down to principle.

"We are the studio that has the financial and corporate resources to stand up and do something about it," she explained.

"Infringing a developer's copyright is not an acceptable practice in game development. By calling Zynga out on this illegal practice, we hope to have a secondary effect of protecting the rights of other creative studios who don't have the resources to protect themselves."