If you’re a fan of online or mobile gaming, then you’re probably very familiar with Zynga. Zynga has provided people all over the globe with more ways to waste time than probably any other software company in recent memory. In fact, many of you have probably spent what amounts to months of your life playing such games as “Words with Friends,” “Mafia Wars,” and “Hanging with Friends.” What’s even more amazing is that Zynga has somehow convinced people to spend their hard-earned dollars on purchasing virtual cash from Zynga in order to progress through wildly popular games such as “Farmville” and “Cityville.” I’m not kidding. You actually use your credit card or PayPal account to buy fake money to spend within the game itself. I don’t know about you, but I would be embarrassed to tell my friends and family that I spent real money developing a virtual farm for the purpose of growing virtual crops and raising virtual animals. “Hey Dad! Guess what? I spent my allowance on a couple of bushels of simulated hay for my virtual horse.” That would have been the end of my allowance.
For some unknown reason, these games have become cash cows for Zynga. So, it’s not surprising that Zynga has taken some of this money to protect the names of its various games and the substantial goodwill associated with them. Zynga is the owner of federal trademark registrations for FARMVILLE, CITYVILLE, YOVILLE, and FISHVILLE, all of which are registered for products or services related to computer game software. Zynga has also applied to register a number of other trademarks that incorporate the “ville” formative, including PETVILLE, FRONTIERVILLE, CASTLEVILLE, HOTELVILLE, HOSPITALVILLE, CRIMEVILLE, TOWNVILLE, OFFICEVILLE, ANIMALVILLE, BOUNTYVILLE, and VILLE by itself. I note that most of these trademark applications were filed on an intent-to-use basis, but Zynga’s website indicates that some of the trademarks are now currently in use. I wonder if Hospitalville will enable you to buy virtual health insurance and then have to fight with a virtual health insurance company about a virtual claim you submitted for your virtual broken leg that happened while playing virtual football. I can’t wait!
Of course, Zynga’s immense success has resulted in other software developers trying to piggyback off the brand recognition that Zynga has built over the past few years with its family of “ville” marks. Since March 2010, Zynga has filed a whopping 30 oppositions against trademark applications filed by other developers for trademarks that end in “ville,” most of which are for computer game software or the provision of online computer games. A sampling of these trademarks include:
WEEDVILLE (I’m sure that only refers to typical weeds you might find in your flower garden)
HEMPVILLE (a town for hippies)
BEARVILLE (owned by the Build-A-Bear company)
GODVILLE (or, in other words, Heaven?)
DIETVILLE (a place not known for its cuisine)
DUMBVILLE (the town where people who exchange real dollars for virtual dollars reside)
The bottom line is that you shouldn’t bother filing a trademark application for a “ville” trademark unless you want to spend many years and a ton of non-virtual cash defending a trademark opposition that Zynga will undoubtedly pursue. Trust me, Oppositionville is not a place you want to stop and visit on the way to Registrationville.