August 9, 2013
In today’s round-up of classy and tasteful intellectual property news: The developers of “Bang With Friends” are being sued by Zynga, maker of games like “Words With Friends,” for alleged trademark infringement.
“Bang With Friends” is an app that lets user select which of their Facebook friends they’d like to, ahem, be more than friends with. If two users pick each other, the app lets each of them know. Presumably, wine coolers and Marvin Gaye follow.
Understandably, “Bang With Friends” has a sleazy reputation and Zynga isn’t happy about it. It claims that “Bang With Friends” was named in an effort to freeload of the popularity of Zynga’s “With Friends” collection of games, like Hanging With Friends and Chess With Friends.
Zynga has not said this publicly, but it seems fair to assume that Zynga doesn’t appreciate the funk “Bang With Friends” might cast over its squeaky clean stable of family-friend games. In trademark law, this is a concept known as “tarnishment.” Tarnishment refers to the sullying of a trademark’s name or reputation by an infringing party and is a subset of dilution, which refers to the general watering-down of a trademark’s image by a party other than the trademark-holder.
Zynga seems to stand a strong chance of succeeding here. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has already turned down applications for “Yacht With Friends” (huh?) and “Crosswords With Friends” because they were too close to Zynga’s trademarked names.
I was going to end this column by offering the makers of Bang With Friends some helpful, non-infringing names for their app, but I realized that I am writing this on a work computer and I am not really in the mood to have a… “conversation” with HR about what language is appropriate in the workplace.
Update: ‘Bang With Friends’ is now apparently just called “Down,” as in “I’m down to…” Classy and clever, guys!