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Electronic Arts vs. Zynga: Social games at war in court

Electronic Arts and Zynga are going head to head in a video game battle, one that won’t be shared by the millions of fans attracted to the browser-accessed and mobile phone games developed and distributed by the U.S. game-developing rivals. The intellectual property dispute surrounds the similarities between EA’s The Sims Social and Zynga’s recently released The Ville, both of which are available on Facebook.

Zynga is guilty of copyright infringement, according to EA officials who insist The Ville goes “well beyond any superficial resemblance” to The Sims Social. The lawsuit says Zynga “lifted” so many features from The Sims Social game that people who are new to the games would have a difficult time telling them apart.

The social Zynga game The Ville was released on Facebook in June. Electronic Arts’ The Sims Social made its debut last summer. Both games allow players to create virtual characters and lives that can be shared on the social networking website.

The Electronic Arts lawsuit follows other claims that Zynga stole game ideas. EA officials said they filed the copyright infringement suit primarily for their own company. EA also stated that it took the action in defense of smaller video game makers, who might not be able to afford to put up a legal fight against Zynga.

Last winter, Zynga was publicly accused of stealing design elements from a company called NimbleBit for a Zynga game called Dream Heights.

Zynga counter-attacked EA’s claims, saying Electronic Arts officials lacked knowledge of “copyright principles.” Zynga also noted that EA’s recently released SimCity Social looks a lot like Zynga’s own Cityville. A court might have to make a “chicken or the egg” choice in the legal disagreement between the two game makers, which could have an indirect effect on similar lawsuits in the future.

Source: USA Today, “EA sues Zynga, cites copyright infringement,” Brent Molina, Aug. 6, 2012

· Our firm handles cases similar to the one described in this post. To learn more about our practice, please visit our New Jersey intellectual property page.

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