In the digital gaming industry, also called the video game industry in most parts of the world, the most important asset at one’s disposal is intellectual property. This stands as the basis for a series of successful products whenever a particular franchise takes off – as well as a lot of profit. The companies in this sector know this all too well and have been known to protect such property jealously and with extreme prejudice. “Electronic Arts” (EA), best known for the FIFA series and the recent smash hit series Mass Effect has recently chosen to sue the facebook media giant “Zynga” for copyright infringement.
Just at the end of 2011, Zynga chose to file an injunction against the Brazilian developer ‘Vostu’ for releasing a product which Zynga insisted was so similar to theirs that it must have been copied. This injunction had to be addressed immediately because the seized amount would have basically put Vostu out of business overnight. It transpired that the allegedly infringing product was in fact using an extremely similar set of source code. Both companies’ games had exactly the same programming flaws (bugs). This forced Vostu to push for a settlement immediately. This is just one of many examples of Zynga’s actions against other developers in order to protect their intellectual property.
Many critics have postulated that only a giant like EA would have the capital and manpower to sustain such a lawsuit against Zynga and leave them with at least the odd bruise. The issue is that EA insists that Zynga’s latest release titled “the Ville” is essentially a knock-off of EA’s “Sims Social”. Lucy Bradshaw, on behalf of EA, has made a statement including the following:
“Zynga’s design choices, animations, visual arrangements and character motions and actions have been directly lifted from The Sims Social. The copying was so comprehensive that the two games are, to an uninitiated observer, largely indistinguishable. Scores of media and bloggers commented on the blatant mimicry.
Infringing a developer’s copyright is not an acceptable practice in game development. By calling Zynga out on this illegal practice, we hope to have a secondary effect of protecting the rights of other creative studios who don’t have the resources to protect themselves.
This is a strong statement with what may be a somewhat dubious tinge of altruism towards other developers. All of this comes in the wake of several recent difficulties for Zynga such as a drop in their stock price and the accusation of insider trading. Whatever the result of this suit turns out to be, it will certainly have an impact on the industry, both in terms of business practice as well as in terms of current legal practice with regard to intellectual property.
For more information about how GVZH Advocates can assist you with your needs in the field of intellectual property and technology, media and communications law, kindly contact us here.