Yesterday, Zynga's lawyers threatened the hook-up app Bang with Friends with a trademark lawsuit. Since then Zynga sources have been whispering that the publicly-traded time bomb has tried to resolve the issue "amicably" for months. But Bang with Friends CEO Colin Hodge vehemently denied that claim.
"We were definitely blindsided by this yesterday, to say otherwise is not accurate," Hodge told Valleywag by phone this afternoon. "Like a lot of big companies, they reached out to us back in January, but we haven’t heard from them in a long time and did not expect this to happen yesterday."
According to Hodge, one of Zynga's attorneys emailed Bang with Friends in January. "It was similar to the sort of threat that they gave to other startups that they took issue with," he said. (Last May, Zynga, which is infamous for its copycat culture, sued a French firm for a game called PyramidVille. That's just one of many examples of Pincus calling the kettle black.)
Hodge says one of Bang with Friends lawyers had a conversation with Zynga after that initial email, however, "It’s been radio silence for over three months now."
He claims that Zynga's attempts "to make an impression that they gave us a heads up and they were in touch with our trademark attorney was definitely not the case," he said. "Not hearing from them for over three months definitely sent the message" that the issue had been resolved.
"I still don't have a copy," of the lawsuit, Hodge said, at the time of the call. "My lawyer just told me that he received it and he’s looking into it now."
In the complaint (embedded below), Zynga references quotes from our profile of Hodge in May when he said his goal was to make the product "as objectionable as possible." Thanks for the shout out, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockon LLP! The suit also says:
"Zynga is seeking findings of infringement and injunctive, compensatory and punitive relief."
The complaint says Zynga "initially sought defendant's compliance with the laws informally," but Zynga's overzealous legal team appears to have been awakened by Bang with Friends expansion plans (emphasis ours):
41. Despite being on clear notice of Zynga's rights and objections, and without notifying Zynga of its plans, Defendant worked toward a massive expansion into the mobile market leveraging Zynga's WITH FRIENDS mark.
42. it released two new "Bang With Friends" casual sex matchmaking apps in May 2013.
43. In the weeks since, Defendant's plan to expand its infringing activities aggressively was revealed by a person identified as a "Bang With Friends" investor. To Zynga's great surprise, this investor stated that Defendant intends "to go from 'Bang' to 'Hang' to 'Tennis' to 'Games' to other activities."
44. In keeping with that strategy, Defendant recently has introduced a new "Hang" feature that immediately became known as "Hang With Friends," which is nearly identical to Zynga's registered HANGING WITH mark and game.
45. With what now appears to be a full-time team to support its illicit activities, Defendant also continues to add new content features that violate Zynga's rights (including the "Drinking With Friends" feature and the "threesome feature"). In addition, Defendant continues to press forward with ambitious, sex-related advertising and marketing of "Bang With Friends," including the distribution of condoms emblazoned with its infringing name and "'racy" logo at various events nationwidc.
46. These actions have made clear that Defendant either was leading Zynga on in the parties' discussions and actually never intended to change its name voluntarily, or has become too enamored with the name and associated celebrity/notoriety to do so now.