Zynga Game Network, Inc. v. John Does 1-5
U.S. District Court, Northern District of California
Case No. 09-cv-02441, Filed June 2, 2009

Final Update:

This case was voluntarily dismissed without prejudice on October 26, 2009, pursuant to FRCP 41(a). Rule 41(a)(1) allows for the plaintiff to dismiss an action without a court order by filing a notice of dismissal before the opposing party serves either an answer or a motion for summary judgment. In this case it appears that Zynga had some difficulty in finding the defendants to serve with process, and may have ultimately decided the effort was not worth the cost.

Case Update:

After getting our hands on the complaint for this case, we can update our previous entry concerning a suit brought by Zynga, a successful online social gaming company with over 75 million registered users.

Zynga filed the complaint against the registrants (of currently unknown identity, thus the John Doe aliases) of the website domain name for trademark infringement and unfair competition. Zynga has been using the trademark and service mark ZYNGA since its founding in 2007 and claims that the mark has become well-known by social gamers as a source identifier for Zynga’s games. Zynga currently has a trademark application for the mark. The complaint also notes that Zynga operates a Texas Hold’Em Poker game which uses virtual poker “chips.”

Zynga claims that the domain name is confusingly similar to the ZYNGA mark since it has no relation to Zynga and instead goes to a website that advertises for and/or hyperlinks to a variety of products and services. Zynga claims that a user looking for Zynga may land on the defendants’ website instead and click one of the links listed, thereby diverting the user’s attention from Zynga and costing Zynga an opportunity to interact with the user. Zynga further alleges that the defendants acted in bad faith, intending to profit from use of the ZYNGA mark.

Here are the specifics of the five counts of the complaint:

  1. False designation of origin regarding the mark ZYNGA (15 U.S.C. § 1125(a)):
    Here Zynga alleges that the defendants have used the mark to falsely represent that the defendants are affiliated with Zynga in a way that’s likely to cause confusion as to Zynga’s true association with the defendants and/or their products.

  2. Federal cybersquatting regarding the mark ZYNGA (15 U.S.C. § 1125(d)):
    Under this claim, Zynga alleges the defendants are liable because the ZYNGA mark is distinctive, is confusingly similar to that mark, and the defendants had a bad faith intent to profit from using the mark.

  3. California statutory unfair competition:
    Zynga claims that the defendants have acquired an unfair competitive advantage through the unauthorized commercial use of the mark in a willful attempt to trade on Zynga’s goodwill gained from the mark.

  4. California common law trademark infringement:
    Zynga claims that the defendants’ unauthorized use of the mark is trademark infringement likely to cause confusion, deception and mistake as to the source of, and authorization for the products and/or services sold by the defendants.

  5. California common law passing off and unfair competition:
    Lastly, Zynga alleges that the defendants’ actions constitute intentional attempts to pass off its products and/or services in such a way as to deceive the public into thinking they’re being offered by, or are affiliated with, Zynga in order to obtain an unfair advantage over Zynga.

Zynga is seeking equitable relief (including an injunction to prohibit defendants from using the ZYNGA mark in a way that may cause confusion as well as transfer of the domain name to Zynga) and monetary damages.

This appears to be a fairly straightforward trademark/domain name dispute, but we’ll keep you updated as the case progresses in case anything interesting happens.

Read the full complaint here.

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