Until recently, if you heard the extended suffix "with friends" attached to something, you'd probably associate it with a handful of cutesy smartphone games like "Words with Friends," "Scramble with Friends" or "Running with Friends" — all Zynga games, all exceedingly family friendly. But the game maker is not happy about an app called "Bang with Friends," that has, well, different intentions, and is taking "Bang with Friends" to court, alleging trademark infringement.
"This is a case about illegal free riding on recognized and valuable intellectual property rights," Zynga said in a lawsuit filed this week in California district court.
"Bang with Friends," like many of Zynga's most popular games, is an app that lives and breathes on the borders of the larger Facebook ecosystem.
By logging in to Facebook or downloading an Android app (Apple removed the iOS version of "Bang with Friends" from its App Store in May), users can scroll through their Facebook book friends, swiping up or down to indicate whether they're down to "hang" or ahem, do more. The app, in short, promises to be "a completely anonymous way to hook up with your Facebook friends."
That has very little in common with a game like "Words with Friends" (itself a clone of the popular board game "Scrabble.") But Zynga now says that using "with Friends" in the app's name is basically a way to draw in more users at Zynga's expense.
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"Zynga filed a lawsuit to stop blatant infringement of its valuable 'With Friends' brand," Renée Lawson, Zynga's deputy general counsel, told NBC News in an emailed statement. "A company calling itself 'Bang with Friends' ... 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."
In its court filing, (shared here by GigaOm), Zynga said that it had approached the hookup app developers "through informal efforts" to take action before resorting to a lawsuit, but negotiations about a possible name change eventually broke down.
"It now appears that [negotiations were] either ... a ploy or [BWF] has reconsidered in light of recent attention showered on it," Zynga said in its suit.