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Monday, June 29, 2009

Videogame Companies Go to the Mattresses In Battle Over 'Mafia Wars'

Posted By on Mon, Jun 29, 2009 at 7:30 AM

click to enlarge whiteheat_l.jpg

it, Ma! Top of the world!' Going out in a ball of flames exchanging

gunfire with the cops: Very gangster. A federal lawsuit regarding a Web

ad: Not so much.

In a case that features two of the silliest-named litigants to ever spar in San Francisco's federal district court, Zynga is suing Playdom over videogames called, respectively, "Mafia Wars" and "Mobsters." And, yes, they made a federal case out of it.

San Francisco-based Zynga specializes in games on social networking sites such as Myspace and Facebook -- as does the Mountain View company Playdom -- and, considering the subject of the rival companies' games, you could call this a turf war.

Zynga claims 2.5 million users play "Mafia Wars" daily -- so there are plenty of reasons to want to muscle in on Zynga's action. The company claims Playdom did so when a Zynga employee noticed, on June 11, an advertisement on Facebook that blared, in big letters, "Like Mafia Wars?" In smaller text below an image of a 1930s-era gangster  was written: "Click here to play Mobsters. Its (sic) got henchmen, mini games, message boards and sophisticateds style."

Just over a week transpired between the discovery of this ad and a federal lawsuit -- which is awfully quick for two companies making money on gangster lore, don't you think? Would it have killed them to send someone a fish wrapped up game-controller cords? Couldn't a truce have been brokered after-hours in an Italian restaurant, complete with Nintendo Duck Hunt firearms fetched from toilets? This federal case -- it's just not very gangster. But, alas.

In any event, Zynga claims it contacted Playdom and, in essence, asked "what the hell?" which resulted in the offending text being changed from "Like Mafia Wars?" to "Like Mafia Games?" -- but now the ads say "Mafia Wars" once more. This, Zynga claims, is a trademark violation and is "designed to confuse and deceive the consuming public, and divert business and valuable goodwill away from Mafia Wars." (the preceding excerpt from the lawsuit is a lot more fun if you read it in Marlon Brando's Don Corleone voice.).

In any event, the suit is for trademark infringement, false or misleading designation of origin, false advertising, and unlawful business practices.

Since garroting, Tommy guns, bootlegging, dope-peddling, and whores were woefully absent from this mob conflict, would it be too much to ask that the litigants at least wear double-breasted, pinstriped suits to any future court dates?

H/T   |   Courthouse News

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" is a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly, which he has written for since 2007. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers... more


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