Farmville maker Zynga wins Scrabble trademark row

Image caption,
Would you confuse Zynga's word game with the original Scrabble?

Zynga's Scramble With Friends word game for mobile devices does not infringe Mattel's Scrabble trademarks, a High Court judge has ruled.

Mattel had argued that Zynga's use of the word "Scramble" was too close to the word "Scrabble".

But Mr Justice Peter Smith disagreed.

However, he did accept that Zynga's use of a curly letter M in the logo "gives the impression that the word is Scrabble when one looks at it quickly and has the propensity to confuse".

This means Zynga will have to change the game's logo, but not the name itself.

'Mattel intends to appeal'

US company Mattel, the world's biggest toy manufacturer, owns brands such as Barbie, Hot Wheels and Fisher-Price Toys, as well as Scrabble.

In response to the ruling, Mattel spokesman Alan Hilowitz said: "We are pleased that the English High Court today affirmed Mattel's request for an injunction against Zynga, finding that the similarities between their Scramble With Friends logo and Mattel's intellectual property likely would confuse the public into thinking they were in fact downloading Scrabble.

"We are, however, disappointed that the court did not rule that Zynga should cease using the Scramble name, which Mattel intends to appeal."

Zynga said it was not prepared to comment on the case.

The ruling will be a relief to Zynga, the online games company that made its stock market debut in December 2011 and was valued at $1bn (£630m).

Since then it has struggled to replicate the success of games such as FarmVille and Words With Friends.

60% share rise

In October, the company reported a net loss of $68,000 for its third quarter, compared with a $57.3m loss for the same period last year.

While the results were better than expected, year-on-year revenues fell 36% to $202.5m and the number of fee-paying players has halved to about 1.6 million.

But chief executive Don Mattrick, who joined Zynga in July from his role as head of interactive entertainment at Microsoft, maintained that a return to profitability was in sight for the company.

Zynga bought OMGPOP, the company behind the popular game Draw Something, for $200m in March 2012, but shut the company less than a year later.

Despite the setbacks, Zynga's share price has risen 60% over the past 52 weeks.

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