Zynga is suing the makers of Bang with Friends, an app that makes it easy to turn Facebook friends into flings. That’s news to Bang With Friends‘ founders, who say they never received a service letter notifying them of the lawsuit. They read about it in the news this morning, just like everyone else.
The service letter, which is mandatory in any lawsuit, shows up here, so Bang With Friends will likely receive it today. Given that Zynga owns the “with friends” trademark for all computer games, it doesn’t sound like Bang With Friends has much of a case.
Zynga first filed for the “with friends” trademark in 2011 before Bang With Friends was founded. It was officially granted the mark in June 2013. The mark encompasses a wide spectrum of intellectual property, such as “entertainment services in which users can interact through social games for recreational, leisure or entertainment purposes,” and “computer software to enable posting, showing, or displaying information in the field of electronic gaming.”
Zynga claims Bang With Friends only chose its name because of Zynga’s popular brands, such as “Words with Friends,”Scramble with Friends” and “Running with Friends.” Not only that, but Bang With Friends is a sex-finding app, so it could damage Zynga’s wholesome reputation. Zynga is seeking payment for damages in the lawsuit.
“Zynga filed a lawsuit to stop blatant infringement of its valuable “With Friends” brand,” Zynga’s Deputy General Counsel Renée Lawson said in a statement. “A company calling itself “Bang with Friends” – whose own founders played Zynga’s “With Friends” games – decided to gain attention for its sex-related app by leveraging Zynga’s well-known mark. Zynga is compelled to file suit to prevent further consumer confusion and protect its intellectual property rights against infringement.”
A source close to the Zynga team says Zynga is only seeking a name change, not requesting that the app get shut down entirely. This person also says Zynga tried to resolve this “amicably” for several months, and there have been communications between both parties prior to the lawsuit.
Bang With Friends could make the case that it isn’t technically a game. But its name is similar enough that it could cause brand confusion with Zynga, especially since its app once retailed in the App Store alongside Zynga’s brands. It doesn’t seem like Bang With Friends would pass the “Likelihood of Confusion test,” which is used in many trademark infringement cases. According to MarkLaw.com, “If the relevant consuming public will likely be confused or mistaken about the source of a product or service sold using the mark in question, then likelihood of confusion exists, and the mark has been infringed.”
The founders of Bang With Friends say they take intellectual property seriously and they’ll act accordingly once they receive a copy of the lawsuit (as of 6:00 AM Eastern, they still hadn’t received official notification).
“We heard through media reports that Zynga has filed a trademark infringement claim with respect to the ‘with friends’ part of our name,” Bang With Friends told Business Insider this morning via email. “As a technology company, we take intellectual property seriously and will evaluate the case in detail once we receive a copy. Regardless, we continue to be focused on making our users happy, so that they can help each other be happy.”
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