Zynga, the company behind the ultra-popular FarmVille game, has filed for a trademark in Europe for the use of the word ‘Ville’. Apparently it has taken some lessons from Facebook as that company feels it owns the word ‘book’.
According to a report from Fusible, Zynga has filed the forms with the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM), the European trademark office, to try to take control of the word ‘Ville’, but if it’s anything like the process in the United States, people can attempt to block it. It seems that Zynga wants to control the word in relation to a multitude of goods and services:
9: Scientific, nautical, surveying, photographic, cinematographic, optical, weighing, measuring, signalling, checking (supervision), life-saving and teaching apparatus and instruments; apparatus and instruments for conducting, switching, transforming, accumulating, regulating or controlling electricity; apparatus for recording, transmission or reproduction of sound or images; magnetic data carriers, recording discs; automatic vending machines and mechanisms for coin-operated apparatus; cash registers, calculating machines, data processing equipment and computers; fire-extinguishing apparatus; computer game software; video game programs; computer software platforms for social networking; interactive video game programs; downloadable electronic game programs and computer software platforms for social networking that may be accessed via the Internet, computers and wireless devices; computer software to enable uploading, posting, showing, displaying, tagging, blogging, sharing or otherwise providing electronic media or information in the fields of virtual communities, electronic gaming, entertainment, and general interest via the Internet or other communications networks with third parties; magnetic coded gift cards.
25: Clothing, footwear and headgear; clothing, namely, t-shirts, sweatshirts, socks, jackets, button down shirts, polo shirts, dresses, skirts, jeans, shorts, sweatpants, neckties, aprons, belts, gloves, jerseys and headwear.
41: Education; providing of training; entertainment; sporting and cultural activities; entertainment services, namely, providing online computer and electronic games, enhancements within online computer and electronic games, and game applications within online computer and electronic games; providing online reviews of computer games and providing of information relating to computer games; providing an Internet website portal in the field of computer games and gaming; entertainment services, namely, providing virtual environments in which users can interact through social games for recreational, leisure or entertainment purposes.
There is no doubt that ‘Ville’ has become an important term to the company with four games already having been launched with the moniker, but to give them what would amount to complete control of a common word in the online realm as well as merchandising seems a bit over reaching. Yes, there is no doubt they should hold the trademarks on proper game names, but unless they plan to release a game simply named ‘Ville’, it just seems to much.
And then there is an odd question when it comes to the merchandising rights, what happens to towns that end in ‘ville’ who want to sell clothing to raise money? I happen to live in a ‘ville’, and our Walmart is constantly stocked with shirts with the town name, the high school name which includes the city and assorted other products. Would Zynga have a right to claim we couldn’t sell t-shirts any more? My gut feeling is they couldn’t stop us, but then I’m not a lawyer.
Whatever the ruling on this turns out to be, it is sure to not garner Zynga any good will amongst other developers, or even the public at large. Attempting to control common words has never been a way for companies to win over customers, and usually does exactly the opposite.
What do you think of Zynga attempting to obtain this trademark?