Whatever you do "with friends", Zynga wants to own it.
The app, launched in February, lets you anonymously select Facebook friends that you'd like to, well, bang, and then notifies you via email if you have a match —
"Zynga filed a lawsuit to stop blatant infringement of its valuable 'With Friends' brand," Renée Lawson, Zynga deputy general counsel, 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."
But Zynga doesn't really have a chance. If the company were able to copyright "With Friends" then Apple would've been able to copyright "app store" in its suit against Amazon. Apple couldn't because of the generic nature of the phrase, and now, neither can Zynga. If successful, Zynga Inc. v. Bang With Friends Inc. would set a complicated and unnecessary precedent for future app and game makers. Then why not expand and copyright "Ville" and "Wars" to protect the company’s other games like Farmville and Mafia Wars?
Zynga might have a point in criticizing Bang With Friends for free-riding off of the gaming company's popular naming convention because after all, it's naive to think the app creators weren't aware of games like Words With Friends and Chess With Friends – and that users won't confuse it for a Zynga game.
But for a company whose games have been declining in popularity on Facebook, whose executives have been exiting, and whose revenue has been declining, filing a lawsuit just might not be worth the time and money.
Bang With Friends, in response to the suit, told the BBC that “As a technology company, we take intellectual property seriously, and will evaluate the case in detail once we receive a copy."
If we’re going to talk intellectual property, Zynga themselves have a lot to answer for. EA sued the company in 2012 over the game The Ville, claiming it was a copy of EA's The Sims Social. And isn't Words With Friends just a digital knockoff of Scrabble?
At the end of the day, if people are more inclined to have sex with random Facebook friends than test their vocabulary skills, so be it. Perhaps that's just the sort of revitalization Zynga needs.