Zynga Sued over 'Mafia Wars' Trademark by Digital Chocolate: Read the Lawsuit Here

Who says a war is bad for business?
San Francisco-based social-gaming company Zynga is being sued for alleged trademark infringement over its popular Facebook game, Mafia Wars.

Digital Chocolate, another online gaming company, claims in a lawsuit filed in federal court that it owns rights to the name "Mafia Wars," having published its own game of the same title in 2004. You can read a copy of Digital Chocolate's complaint here.

The suit asserts that Zynga offered assurances to Digital Chocolate that it did not claim the Mafia Wars trademark -- then turned around and tried to patent the name. The lawsuit cites this passage from a letter written by one of Zynga's lawyers to Digital Chocolate in May 2009:

Zynga does not claim Mafia Wars as a trademark. Zynga uses the term "Mafia Wars" to describe the genre of Zynga's game MAFIA WARS from ZYNGA or ZYNGA MAFIA WARS. Zynga disclaims any trademark rights in the term "Mafia Wars" in connection with its game.

However, in June 2009 Zynga sued competitor Playdom, claiming the company's advertising misleadingly associated one of its games with Zynga's Mafia Wars. In that lawsuit, Zynga claimed, "Zynga is the senior user of the 'Mafia Wars' mark." Then, in July, it filed a U.S. trademark application to register the Mafia Wars name, claiming under penalty of perjury that "no other person, firm, corporation or association has the right to use the mark in commerce." In March 2010, Zynga claimed in yet another lawsuit that it "coined the trademark MAFIA WARS."

These assertions look inconsistent, to say the least, with Zynga's earlier assurances to Digital Chocolate.

"In a good faith effort to resolve this matter, Digital Chocolate has attempted to engage defendant multiple times," the lawsuit states. "In response, Defendant has made false promises of cooperation and offered lip service that it respected Digital Chocolate's rights in the MAFIA WARS mark."

TG Daily reports that Zynga has offered the following statement in response to the lawsuit: "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."

Image   |   Tony Crescibene

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