The home page at Blingville, LLC’s website (www.blingville.com) currently reads “New Facebook Game Coming Soon!” On August 18, 2010, Blingville, a West Virginia company, announced on its Facebook page that it had begun working on this new Facebook game, and the game has been in Beta testing since then. But will Blingville have to change its name?
If you’re a Facebook user, you probably know or have heard of Farmville, the social networking game published by Zynga Game Networks that lets you grow crops and raise animals on a virtual farm. To date, nearly 29 million users have “liked” Farmville on Facebook. Zynga is also the publisher of the popular Mafia Wars game and has created a series of other social networking games, including Cityville, Frontierville, Petville, Fishville and Yoville. See any pattern here?
On November 2, 2010, Zynga sent a cease and desist letter demanding that the name of the game be changed. On November 5, Blingville’s predecessor Overtime Apps filed a trademark application for Blingville in the United States Patent and Trademark Office. After receiving several further demand letters from Zynga, Blingville filed suit on January 14, 2011 against Zynga in a West Virginia federal court seeking a declaratory judgment that its use of Blingville for a social networking game does not infringe any of Zynga’s trademark rights. We’ll have to wait and see whether Zynga, which is clearly building a family of “Ville” trademarks used in social networking games is successful in protecting that family. Its chances seem pretty good to me, although I, of course, don’t know all the facts in play.
Hopefully, Zynga does not mind litigating the issue in West Virginia, as opposed to its home in northern California. If nothing else, this case illustrates the need to consider your trademark enforcement strategy carefully. Sending demand letters to enforce your trademark rights is often very effective, but it can lead to you becoming a defendant far from home, just as Zynga has become here. Before firing off that letter, you should consult with counsel to discuss your options, including whether it makes sense to be the first to file a lawsuit and send a copy of the complaint with your demand letter.