A recent lawsuit by SocialApps LLC (d/b/a take(5) social and playSocial) accuses Zynga of copyright infringement, theft of trade secret and various other acts concerning Farmville. Farmville is one of the most widely played and profitable social games, with around 80 million users and was released in June 2009. SocialApps allegedly developed and released "myFarm" in November 2008.
Did Zynga independently create Farmville or, as SocialApps alleges, did Zynga approach SocialApps using a ruse of due diligence in an attempt to acquire the IP rights and source code to get access to the details of myFarm? Perhaps we will learn the answer as the suit progresses.
If SocialApps did indeed invent the game earlier, did they do all they could to protect the IP? Many companies in the online social game space do not. For an overview of some of the ways that social game companies can protect their IP, see our advisory on "Intellectual Property for Games" as well as our previous post entitled "What You Don't Know About IP Protection For Social Games Can Hurt You".