In a move that definitely couldn’t backfire at all, game studio Zynga has filed a lawsuit over the use of the phrase “… with friends.” I guess from now on we can only hang out with acquaintances and strangers.
Specifically, Zynga, which owns popular phone-based amusements like Words With Friends and Chess With Friends, has elected to sue the makers of hookup app Bang With Friends for allegedly selecting its name “with Zynga’s game trademarks fully in mind.” Thoughtcrime! As the BBC reports:
“Zynga filed a lawsuit to stop blatant infringement of its valuable ‘With Friends’ brand,” Renée Lawson, the firm’s Deputy General Counsel, said in a written statement.
A company calling itself ‘Bang with Friends’ – whose own founders played Zynga’s ‘With Friends’ games – decided to gain attention for its sex-related app by leveraging Zynga’s well-known mark. Zynga is compelled to file suit to prevent further consumer confusion and protect its intellectual property rights against infringement.
Let me get this straight: You’re telling me the developers knew what the word “friends” meant, and furthermore knew how to use the preposition “with,” and even managed to deduce that the two could be used together to describe exactly what their app hoped to accomplish? And that we should be worried that someone will buy Bang With Friends out of confusion, on the assumption that it’s just a new board game they haven’t heard of? Makes sense.
Bang With Friends, which bills itself as the “anonymous, simple, fun way to find friends who are down for the night,” had already been summarily wiped from the Apple store for “inappropriate content,” yet apps like Grindr (for LGBTQ hookups) and Ashley Madison (which facilitates adulterous affairs) are still available. Is there no place in this world for casual hetero sex?
The lawsuit is a pretty bold play for Zynga, the developer of Words With Friends, which is itself a ripoff of Scrabble with just enough microscopic differences to keep Hasbro and Mattel from making a similar legal stink. It’s almost as though they believe that the English language is public domain … except when they’d rather it wasn’t.
To Zynga’s credit, the Bang With Friends name is almost certainly a play on their “With Friends” franchise—but it’s not the sort of infringement that’s easy to prove, and it’ll be even more difficult to establish damage to their brand from an app you can’t even get on an iPhone. The possible upside to such legal action remains vague.
Plus, shouldn’t they be busy working on other games? I’ve got a ton of pitches. “Connect Five With Friends” would be a smash hit, and I think “BattleBoat With Friends” could do equally well. Or what about “Exclusive Control of a Commodity With Friends”?
After all, with friends like Zynga, who needs fresh ideas?
Photo via Bang With Friends