Zynga Wins Scrabble/Scramble Trademark War With Mattel

By Joseph Mandour on November 8, 2013

Trademark BattleLos Angeles  – One of the best known providers of social gaming applications has won a trademark dispute against the world’s biggest toy and game manufacturer. The English High court ruled earlier this week that Zynga’s “Scramble With Friends” word game does not infringe on Mattel’s classic Scrabble board game. Mattel had originally filed a lawsuit against Zynga, claiming that its use of the word “Scramble” was likely to cause confusion among consumers with its own “Scrabble.”

In his ruling, Justice Peter Smith sided mainly with the San Francisco-based app maker, finding that “Scramble With Friends” is different enough from “Scrabble” so as not to mislead consumers.  He did, however, give one glimmer of hope to Mattel, by nothing that the logo of the app “gives the impression that the word is Scrabble when one looks at it quickly and has the propensity to confuse.” As such, while Zynga has maintained the right to use the name “Scramble With Friends”, it will likely have to change the way the name appears within the app.  The logo currently shows the word “Scramble,” with a curly “m”, making its somewhat difficult to discern the “m” from say, the letter “b.”

For its own part in the downloadable game market, Mattel, along with Hasbro, who together jointly own the rights to the game, have a Scrabble app, which is operated by EA Games.  Users can download “Scrabble” for free just as they can “Scramble With Friends.”  Notably, however, while the Scrabble app is based on the classic word-making board game, “Scramble With Friends” is a word jumble game.

In response to its loss in court, Mattel was clear about its plans to appeal.  While praising Justice Smith’s finding that the logos are too similar, spokesman Alan Hilowitz said that the company is “disappointed that the court did not rule that Zynga should cease using the Scramble name, which Mattel intends to appeal.” Zynga has yet to comment on the outcome of the case.

The victory comes at a trying time for Zynga, which earlier in the year announced that it was laying off almost 20% of its employees and closing its offices in New York, Dallas, and Los Angeles.   Revenues have also steadily been falling for the past couple of years for the company, which started as a small start-up operation in 2007.  Despite the slowdown, it appears that Zynga might be on a path to recovery with this most recent legal triumph and its share prices finally rising a reported 60% in the past year.

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