Zynga, Digital Chocolate clash over Mafia Wars

Trip Hawkins-led studio sues FarmVille creator over alleged usurpation of name to mobster-branded casual game title.

Zynga has been running into a good bit of trouble due to its free online game Mafia Wars of late. Last week, San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera threatened to sue the casual game developer for a recent marketing campaign that saw dozens of stickers applied to public sidewalks in five separate locations. Now, Zynga has actually been sued over Mafia Wars, this time due to a trademark dispute with fellow casual game developer Digital Chocolate.

Mafia Wars just can't seem to stay out of trouble.

As relayed by Courthouse News, Digital Chocolate filed its suit with the District Court of Northern California on August 24. In the suit, the studio, which was set up by Electronic Arts cofounder and onetime CEO Trip Hawkins in 2003, notes that it has marketed and sold the action adventure game Mafia Wars for mobile phones since 2004, releasing three expansions through 2009. Further, the studio filed to trademark the term "Mafia Wars" in Europe, though not with the US Patent and Trademark Office.

The trouble began in September 2008, when Zynga began offering its own game named Mafia Wars, which is available for play through social networks such as Facebook and on the iPhone. According to the suit, due to Zynga's extensive marketing campaign that included a multimillion-dollar joint effort with 7-Eleven, its version of Mafia Wars is played by more than 1.1 million people a day.

Taking exception with Zynga's appropriation of the Mafia Wars name, Digital Chocolate sent the game maker a cease-and-desist letter in January 2009, claiming that it had senior rights to the name. In May 2009, the studio claims that it received a letter from Zynga acknowledging Digital Chocolate's senior rights and noting that it makes no claims to the Mafia Wars trademark.

Despite that claim, Digital Chocolate stated in its suit that Zynga went ahead and filed for rights to the Mafia Wars name, first in the United Kingdom and then again in a variety of other countries, including the US. The studio also began claiming senior rights to the Mafia Wars trademark, namely by sending its own cease-and-desist letter to recent Disney acquisition Playdom.

Digital Chocolate is seeking the court's recognition that it has established a common law claim on the Mafia Wars trademark due to its use of the term in its games since 2004. The studio is also asking the court to stop Zynga from using the Mafia Wars name, as well as prevent Zynga from being issued a trademark for the term in the US.

Other demands include Zynga turning over the rights to the MafiaWars.com domain name and engaging in a "corrective advertising campaign" to the tune of double what Zynga spent on its own game.

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53 comments
Gruug
Gruug

I have gotten to the point where I can't play any of the "social network" games. They are all pretty dull and boring.

magusat999
magusat999

I spent some time in the Mafia Wars slammer - playing it incessantly, watching it 24/7 - it was very engaging for a while - until I realized that the more you play the more difficult it is to keep playing. Several expansions came out, and people who are high level were hoping that the new expansions would be fair and have a decent point ratio so that we could continue to move forward without waiting for hours and hours until points raise up again and we can play. But Zynga just made even worse ratios (for instance you spend 10 energy points on a job and you get a certain amount back - if you get less than 50% back then you lose energy points and have to wait for them to recharge. Zynga has been making games with as low as 10% return on your energy, so when you use it up you might have to wait until the next day to be able to play again.). It became apparent that the formula was to stall people instead of getting them to play as much as possible. And spending money on stuff for Mafia Wars is useless, because whenever they expand the make all the old stuff weak - including whatever you purchased previous to the expansion. The stuff you can purchase with your game points is always worthless as well. The game has a lot of potential, and is very addicting as long as your leveling up regularly, but as soon as that slows down it's a drag - and I don't play games to be frustrated.

boobush
boobush

It's the only reason I keep a MySpace account. Even so, I don't play it that often.

Chainer323
Chainer323

gotta love those pointless lawsuits

KrazzyDJ
KrazzyDJ

Its difficult to play Mafia Wars for a long time - it becomes painfully dull the more you play it. Its been a long while since I last played it. Truth be told, I find it much preferable to play the good old pixelated Nintendo games of the past than casual games like Mafia Wars - I'd choose Nintendo / Atari over Zynga any day !!!

Prettin
Prettin

I like to play some games from Zynga (also Mafia Wars), and yes it's a web-browser based "clicking"-game. But it's great to take away boredom during certain moments if you don't have the time to play other games. Ow and the (damn) advertisment is HIGHLY annoying as well that you need to add "friends" on Facebook, to add them to your game.

apitz_hnu90
apitz_hnu90

heh, we will go back to 80's if we play those stupid facebook games which is sooooo boring. Even Mario still ftw rather than them! :P

haggisbag
haggisbag

What's completely mind boggling about the incredibly boring game "Mafia Wars", is that people actually spend money to buy worthless crap for it.

MMOPlayer22
MMOPlayer22

Mafia Wars is an awful game anyway; 'click here to attack someone' *click* 'click here to attack someone... again'. It's so repetetive and boring, I can't understand why the 1.1mil players aren't ripping off their faces with a keyboard in boredom.

gbrading
gbrading moderator

I think it would be more entertaining to play a genuine Mafia game, rather than a Facebook version.

sub5t4nce
sub5t4nce

... id rather sell my soul to blizzard and spend the rest of my days in the world of warcraft (the ultimate soul sucker of them all)... or just drink whisky out of a hooker's ass before even remotely thinking about playing these pointless, graphicsless, and no skill games.

Coolyfett
Coolyfett

That very interesting. A lot of interesting news in this article. Has Coolyfett looking forward to some things to come.

doublem2
doublem2

I played MF when I first joined FB. But it's just click, click, click so I stopped wasting my time on it. But the part about "engaging in a 'corrective advertising campaign' to the tune of double what Zynga spent on its own game" made me LOL.

Bortson
Bortson

These arent games, they are just click the mouse over and over. But not like Diablo 2 clicking, this is like work clicking the mouse over and over

snake-ala
snake-ala

I don't have to waist my time reading about the f**k-book games...because they are trash

Dynamo11
Dynamo11

FaceBook games suck a** anyway

wwlettsome
wwlettsome

The name of their company is really Digital Chocolate?

Richardthe3rd
Richardthe3rd

Zynga is one of the only reasons I think the 1st amendment needs to be modified, namely to exclude "online, facebook/social gaming" as a protected form of expression or speech. I hope they and any organization like them burn in hell. That's concise enough, right?

foxhound_fox
foxhound_fox

The biggest problem with Zynga, is that it puts in minimal effort, and pulls out hundreds of millions of dollars of profits. It is what is going to kill the mainstream gaming industry. No one with a novel, innovative idea will have enough money to compete with the developers like Zynga and Activision, and thus will either have to downsize and start making indie games, or die out.

nerocool996
nerocool996

useless discussion for a useless thing zynga sucks

airforcetech999
airforcetech999

Zynga sucks facebook sucks what do you want more.The gaming world is the bomb

ichc1000x
ichc1000x

My friend convinced me to play "PetVille". He was telling me that I have to check it every day...... I haven't checked it since the middle of June. Death to Zynga!

Wylen0
Wylen0

Casual gaming is too profitable and devs are noticing this, it is going to kill gaming as we know it..

drummerdickens
drummerdickens

If you enjoy any of these Zynga games you are either: 1) An idiot 2) Leading a very depressing life.

danielkennedy91
danielkennedy91

mafia wars isn't a game but a chore, farmsville is the worse!

DiscGuru101
DiscGuru101

Zynga, should have just picked a different name... But perhaps, when you focus all your efforts on wallet draining casual gamers, you over look little stuff like senior rights?

grungeman91
grungeman91

I wouldn't waste my time with this crap because all of those Myspace and Facebook games suck anyway.

Xirmi
Xirmi

I'd care if Zynga games were actually 'games' and not soul-sucking money-makers.

parrot_of_adun
parrot_of_adun

This is just bizarre. I've never seen so much fuss about something so insignificant. Then again, millions of... unsavory folk... have proven utter crap like mafia wars to be profitable. I'm really quite ashamed of humanity right now...

abdoh10
abdoh10

Zynga SUX the worst game maker ever

zaiwen
zaiwen

zynga should get sued overall, not just mafia wars.. poker especially due to rampant complains they got hacked.. poor customer support even when players around the world purchase virtual currency using real money.. bottomline, zynga dont giva sht.. so they deserve this

cornerback3
cornerback3

Haha, I actually play Mafia Wars, it's not terrible. One of the better things to do on the snore-fest that is Facebook anyways

Flex1
Flex1

y0ur_grandma So If I made a social web browser game about World of Warcraft or Gears of War or any other console/pc game then it wouldn't matter??

ColdfireTrilogy
ColdfireTrilogy

mmm hope all casual games die .... its almost ... heavenly....

Megamanx266
Megamanx266

@ y0ur_grandma If Zynga didn't already port a version onto the iTouch and iPhone (and more than likely iPad) then I'd agree with you. But since Zynga did, it now = mobile game.

icytower
icytower

@ Caml10: Short and to the point, and 100% accurate.

Caml10
Caml10

It's Zynga. It's intentional.

magicalclick
magicalclick

They should have checked the trade mark, or is it indentional?

fLaMbOaStiN
fLaMbOaStiN

I remember playin MW back in like '04 before myspace/facebook and all that stuff.. Back when people communicated thru AIM/MSN/ISQ(or w/e that msger was) and that's it lol.. It's funny that Zynga can pretty much use the same name/concept for it's release 4 years later and still come out a head lol.. Either way it's pretty obvious they ripped off DC for sure.

chikahiro94
chikahiro94

@ y0ur_grandma Well, the line is blurring due to smartphones and such. I'm sure there are folks who saw DC's "Mafia Wars" available for their cell phone and thought of Zynga's game instead.

RadicalToenail
RadicalToenail

Looks like they're going to the mattresses...

Not that I care. I hate both games.

green_dominator
green_dominator

All of these kinds of games suck, there is no involvement and all actions against faceless people, it's not about skill or talent with the game it's all about how many friends you have and if they all play the game too and I use the word game in relation to this very loosely......

spudster007
spudster007

Well...they waited long enough to sue...

y0ur_grandma
y0ur_grandma

Digital Chocolate's Mafia Wars: mobile game Zynga's Mafia Wars: web games They are both totally different. This lawsuit is just an excuse to get money.

mario-nin-freak
mario-nin-freak

:lol: who cares about names, all there for is suing other companies who copy yours:P

nickythenewt21
nickythenewt21

The people of the United States should sue Zynga for wasting our lives with this crap.

rednarok
rednarok

 @Chainer323 pointless? lets say u make a movie that was first prize in highschool, and a few years later your friend decides to make a second version of your movie and gets milionair cuz of it, would you be happy?