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Tale of the Tape: EA/Maxis VS. Zynga

Allen August 6, 2012 News No Comments

Zynga, the fine purveyors of online Facebook games that shamelessly rip off other games, has woken the sleeping giant. Electronic Arts has filed a lawsuit against the social gaming company over The Ville, a game EA/Maxis claims thoroughly rips off The Sims Social. As if Zynga’s recent accusations of insider trading weren’t enough to cripple the company, the upcoming legal battle may be the straw that breaks the camel’s (or dog’s) back.

In a memo published online for the world to see, the publishing giant contends that Zynga more than just rehashed design choices for their 2012 game, they practically stole everything and repackaged it:

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.  The copying was so comprehensive that the two games are, to an uninitiated observer, largely indistinguishable. 

An image, courtesy of Rock, Paper, Shotgun shows off the similarities:

While this action may appear to be EA/Maxis simply kicking someone when they’re down, they claim that the favored outcome of the lawsuit is the opportunity to take a stand against a company that has made a business out of stealing ideas, concepts and assets from other developers:

This is a case of principle.  Maxis isn’t the first studio to claim that Zynga copied its creative product.  But we are the studio that has the financial and corporate resources to stand up and do something about it.  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.

And here’s Zynga’s response to EA’s filing:

“We are committed to creating the most fun, innovative, social and engaging games in every major genre that our players enjoy. The Ville is the newest game in our ‘ville’ franchise – it builds on every major innovation from our existing invest-and-express games dating back to YoVille and continuing through CityVille and CastleVille, and introduces a number of new social features and game mechanics not seen in social games today.

It’s unfortunate that EA thought that this was an appropriate response to our game, and clearly demonstrates a lack of understanding of basic copyright principles. It’s also ironic that EA brings this suit shortly after launching SimCity Social which bears an uncanny resemblance to Zynga’s CityVille game. Nonetheless, we plan to defend our rights to the fullest extent possible and intend to win with players.”

Now that the stage is set and players have taken their marks, this is one court battle that could turn ugly.

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JUDGMENT

TIFFANY(NJ), LLC., a Delaware
TIFFANY4EVER.COM d/b/a

Defendant(s).

at 15 Sylvan Way, Parsippany, NJ 07054 and against Defendant XX, an

2. Pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 504, Tiffany is awarded statutory damages for copyright infringement against XX in the amount of $150,000.00, for which let execution issue;

4. Pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 1117(a), Tiffany is awarded attorney’s fees against XX in the amount of $7,627.00, for which let execution issue;

6. Pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 1117(a) Tiffany is awarded costs against Defendant XX in the amount of $500.00, for which let execution issue;

8. Interest from the date this action was filed shall accrue at the legal rate.

(d) falsely representing themselves as being connected with Tiffany through sponsorship or association;

(e) engaging in any act which is likely to falsely cause members of the trade and/or of the purchasing public to believe any goods or services of XX, www.Esilver2go.com, www.Tiffany4ever.com, www.Shopluxury.us, www.Tcoworld.com, and/or any other website or business, are in any way endorsed by, approved by, and/or associated with Tiffany;

(g) affixing, applying, annexing or using in connection with the sale of any goods, a false description or representation, including words or other symbols tending to falsely describe or represent goods by XX, www.Esilver2go.com, www.Tiffany4ever.com, www.Shopluxury.us, www.Tcoworld.com, and/or any other website or business, as being those of Tiffany, or in any way endorsed by Tiffany;

(k) effecting assignments or transfers, forming new entities or associations or utilizing any other device for the purpose of circumventing or otherwise avoiding the prohibitions set forth above.

Dated this 4th day of September, 2009.