Summary:

Struggling game maker Zynga has filed a lawsuit against Bang With Friends over its use of “with friends.” Under the rules of trademark law, the case looks like a longshot.

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Companies in trouble are often the ones that file the most far-fetched lawsuits. And so it is with Zynga, the down-on-its-luck game maker, that has decided to sue “Bang with Friends,” a buzzy app that shows which of your friends on social media wants to have sex with you. (Scroll down for the filing)

According to Bloomberg, a frustrated Zynga is claiming that the app has wrongfully put the moves on registered trademarks like “Words with Friends” and “Chess with Friends.”

The lawsuit suggests Zynga may be desperate. Recall that investors find the company unattractive due to its ugly earnings, and its new CEO last week decided that its longtime dance with online gambling isn’t working out.

From a legal standpoint, the trademark claim doesn’t appear all that vigorous. That’s because Bang With Friends, which didn’t reply to Bloomberg’s request for comment, has several plausible defenses to the allegations.

On one hand, it could try to argue that its name is protected under free speech law’s parody rules (this is how the site LameBook staved off trademark claims from Facebook).  The app maker may have an even stronger argument by claiming that “with friends” is a generic term that Zynga can’t control; Amazon this week won a dispute on these grounds, fighting off Apple’s attempt to own the words “app store.”

(Update) Here’s a statement from Zynga’s counsel: “Zynga filed a lawsuit to stop blatant infringement of its valuable “With Friends” brand.  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.”

Here’s a copy of the complaint:

Zynga v Bang With Friends

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