EA Suing Zynga over ‘The Ville’

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As it was with Tiny Tower, so it shall be again.

Electronic Arts announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against Zynga, claiming that the Words with Friends publisher has committed copyright infringement with their new game, The Ville. As can be seen pretty clearly by the image below, Zynga’s The Ville looks awfully similar to EA’s The Sims Social.

Lucy Bradshaw, general manager of Maxis–a subsidiary of EA–penned a letter stating that Zynga’s copying is blatant, surpassing the possibility of coincidence.

“In legal terms, our claim is that Zynga copied the original and distinctive expressive elements of The Sims Social in a clear violation of the U.S. copyright laws,” writes Bradshaw. “The similarities go well beyond any superficial resemblance. Zynga’s design choices, animations, visual arrangements, and character motions and actions have been directly lifted from The Sims Social.”

As Bradshaw notes in her letter, this isn’t the first time Zynga has been accused of infringing upon the copyright of another game. Earlier this year, Tiny Tower developer NimbleBit called Zynga out for copying their hit game with Dream Heights. Though NimbleBit didn’t take Zynga to court, choosing instead to make sure people knew about the company’s actions by spreading the word online. EA, though, has different plans.

“This is a case of principle,” Bradshaw said. ” Maxis isn’t the first studio to claim that Zynga copied its creative product.  But we are the studio that has the financial and corporate resources to stand up and do something about it.”

In response, Zynga is taking a stance similar to the one they used during the TinyTower incident. Zynga general counsel Reggie Davis had this to say:

“The Ville is the newest game in our ‘ville’ franchise – it builds on every major innovation from our existing invest-and-express games dating back to YoVille and continuing through CityVille and CastleVille, and introduces a number of new social features and game mechanics not seen in social games today.

It’s unfortunate that EA thought that this was an appropriate response to our game, and clearly demonstrates a lack of understanding of basic copyright principles.”

In addition, Davis used the opportunity to fire back at EA, saying “It’s also ironic that EA brings this suit shortly after launching SimCity Social which bears an uncanny resemblance to Zynga’s CityVille game. Nonetheless, we plan to defend our rights to the fullest extent possible and intend to win with players.”

If this lawsuit does ever see the inside of a courtroom, the outcome could set a few precedents further outlining the rules of “borrowing” from other publishers and developers. It will be interesting to see what comes of all this, and, as always, we’ll be sure to have the latest updates for you.

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