Video Games: December 2011

The Clones Wars: Zynga Uses Copyright to Protect its Games



On December 6, 2011 Zynga settled its copyright suits against Vostu USA Inc. and others.  The first suit, case number 5:11-cv-02959, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California back in June, alleged that several of Vostu's games infringed Zynga's copyrights.  Specifically, Zynga had alleged, that Vostu's MegaCity, Cafe Mania, Pet Mania, Vostu Poker and MiniRazenda games are merely clones of Zynga's popular titles.  Zynga followed this suit with another one in Brazil claiming copyright infringement and unfair competition.  Vostu initially responded to the suits asserting that its games were non-infringing but has ultimately agreed to settle the US and Brazilian matters by compensating Zynga and altering some of its games.

The parties have issued a joint statement that "Zynga and Vostu have settled the copyright lawsuits and counterclaims against each other in the United States and Brazil".  Additionally, "[a]s part of the settlement, Vostu made a monetary payment to Zynga and made some changes to four of its games" but the parties did not elaborate on the amount of the payment or the nature of the changes.

This settlement followed (and may have been prompted by) some early success in the cases by Zynga.  Zynga was able to obtain a preliminary injunction from the Brazilian court ordering Vostu to cease making the challenged games available.  In response Vostu initially convinced a U.S. District Judge to grant a temporary restraining order prohibiting Zynga from enforcing the Brazilian court's order; however this TRO was quickly dissolved.  The Brazilian order was stayed by the appeals court pending Vostu's appeal.

This settlement is a good example of how IP rights can be used to protect a video game from being cloned.  There is a history of successful games being the subject of imitation which goes back to the earliest days of the industry.  Many companies have come to believe that cloning is just part of business and there is nothing that can be done to stop it.  However, this is not entirety true.  Copyright, trademark, trade secrets and patent rights can all provide differing levels of protection for games.  Copyright can protect a game from literal duplication or use of its protected images, code, literary elements, music, etc.  Trademark can protect the actual name, logo or certain other identifying elements from a competitor's potentially confusing use in a game (or elsewhere).  Additionally, trade secrets can be used to protect a company or game's "secret sauce" from being co-opted.  Finally, patents may be used to protect features and functions of a game, including game mechanics, business methods and other functionality and processes. 

Game companies should consult with IP attorneys who understand the IP strategies and patentable aspects for games. For an overview of some of the IP protection available for games, see here.

Around the Virtual World


A weekly wrap up of interesting news about virtual worlds, virtual goods and other social media.

Scientists Find Safer Ways To Test Medical Procedures

Scientists are developing ever more sophisticated versions of "virtual patients" with the aim of testing medical devices and procedures that can't readily be assessed in real people.

FarmVille Creator Zynga Kicks Off $1B IPO

Zynga Inc., creator of the FarmVille and CityVille phenomena as well as other games that piggyback on Facebook Inc.'s tidal wave of popularity, became a publicly traded company Friday when it made a $1 billion initial public offering of its stock.

What's the right social cocktail for you?

From supply chain management to PR crisis management, the role of public social data in the enterprise is no longer framed around the question of "why does this data matter?"  That said, we are still in the very early stages of corporate adoption and there are plenty of unanswered questions for most companies.   Once enterprises get past asking why this data is important, the next obvious question to address is: which public social data is best for performing business analysis and decision-making?  Facebook?  Twitter?  Google+?, WordPress?

U.S. Senator Mad that Your Tax Dollars Saved Video Games

Video game preservation, educational robot dragons and Department of Homeland Security Sno Cones are just some of the "outlandish" federally funded projects called out in U.S. Senator Tom Coburn's annual big book of wasteful government spending this week.

New Research Shows 72% of Consumers Welcome The Opportunity To Watch Sponsored Videos In Online Games

A new study conducted by SponsorPay, the leading international cross-platform social advertising solution, found that consumers welcome the opportunity to watch sponsored videos in online games and not only recall these brands but also harbor positive sentiment towards them.

New Report Details Demographics of Mobile Gamers Buying Virtual Goods

As gamers age, so does their propensity to buy mobile virtual goods, according to a new study by MocoSpace, the largest mobile gaming community in North America. The results of the new study focusing on virtual goods consumption and engagement by age found younger gamers (25-35) spend the most time playing social games, but gamers over 45 buy exponentially more virtual goods than their younger counterparts.

Around the Virtual World


A weekly wrap up of interesting news about virtual worlds, virtual goods and other social media.

From the Supreme Court to Anonymous, 2011 was a transformational year for games

It's no exaggeration to say that 2011 was a transformational year for the game industry. As the game industry's trade group chief, Michael Gallagher, said, "The word 'historic' is overused, but as we look back on 2011, it is a perfect fit for our industry's year." Here's a recap of 13 events that made this such a big year for games.

Viacom Owes Additional $383 Million in 'Rock Band' Video Game Dispute

After already paying $150 million to former shareholders of Harmonix, arbitrators have determined that Viacom owes an additional $383 million to the video game company that created Rock Band, according to a regulatory filing on Tuesday.

New Wave of Hacker Attacks Coming

Virtual currency, sometimes called cybercurrency, has become a popular way for people to exchange money online. These online "wallets" are not encrypted and the transactions are public, making them an attractive target for cybercriminals. There have already been attacks directed at users of Bitcoin, one of the largest virtual currencies, said Dave Marcus, McAfee's director of advanced research and threat intelligence. "Our concern isn't confined to Bitcoin. Virtual currencies seem almost designed to attract hackers," he told me.

5 social network predictions for 2012

Facebook is the power hitter in social networking today, and is likely to drive the most activity and a fair share of the innovation in social networking in 2012. But it's not the only company driving things forward. Here are five ways social networking is likely to play out in the coming year.

Welcome to the future: We predict big trends in social games for 2012

Now it's that time of year that we, once again, reshuffle our tarot decks and see what the next 12 months will hold for games of a social nature. And, even if the Mayan predictions about the world ending in 2012 prove true, that won't happen until December -- so everyone has plenty of time to get this stuff in under the wire.

Virtual Reality Treadmill

Some of us prefer running outdoors simply because it offers something different for the eyes (and senses), instead of pounding it on a treadmill like a hamster in a gym. Of course, there are others who do it right from the comfort of their home, and there are also some pros to offset the cons - you definitely lower the risk of being robbed, and neither do you need to sacrifice your morning run whenever the skies open and start to pour. With the $2,000 Virtual Reality Treadmill, you will be able to enjoy the best of both worlds.