Monday, January 14, 2013

Video Game and App Cloning Litigation Heats Up in 2013

The EA v. Zynga and Triple Town v. Yeti Town cases are ushering in a new wave of cutting edge copyright litigation in the games and apps space.  The video game space is notorious for copying or cloning of apps.  This has long been a criticism of Zynga - so much so that EA finally had enough and decided to test the limits of its copyrights in the expressive elements of Sims Social.

Copyright protects many things but it does not protect ideas or, in this instance, game concepts.  It may, however, protect the expression of certain game concepts such as character traits in Sims Social or the look and feel of the graphical interface of Triple Town.  Thus far, the Courts in both cases agree that EA and Triple Town have alleged legally sufficient claims.  The battle over expressive elements in video games and apps may go a long way to shaping the profitability of gaming intellectual property in the coming decade.  If app developers are granted expansive rights under the Copyright Act, licensing opportunities may exist or copyrights may be used offensively to keep competitors out of the lucrative apps marketplace.  Currently, this is common place with regard to patents where companies arm themselves with large portfolios of patents, often of dubious nature, in order to mount offensive attacks against competitors.  This has most famously been on display in the smart phone wars waged between Apple and its chief rival Samsung.

For these reasons, gaming infringement litigators will be paying close attention to the outcome of the EA and Triple Town app cloning lawsuits.

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