Zynga Sued Over 'Prize Redemption' Patents

FarmVille house Zynga is being sued over patents pertaining to "prize redemption systems" for online games, as the plaintiff calls the alleged infringement "consistent with [Zynga's] ... copycat business strategy."
FarmVille house Zynga was sued on Wednesday over patents pertaining to "prize redemption systems" for online games, according to court documents obtained by Gamasutra. Dallas-based Agincourt Gaming said Zynga has infringed on the patents "Prize Redemption System for Games Executed Over a Wide Area Network" and "Graphical User Interface for Providing Gaming and Prize Redemption Capabilities." The first patent, filed in 1999 as a continuation of a 1996 patent, describes a system that allows users to earn in-game virtual currency, used to acquire in-game items -- a fundamental aspect of Zynga's and many other developers' social network games. The second patent is closely related, describing a user interface that allows users to view prize redemption information relating to a game. Agincourt claims that social gaming leader Zynga is currently infringing on these patents across all of its major games, naming FarmVille, Empires & Allies, Zynga Poker, Mafia Wars and CityVille in the suit, among others. Agincourt said it currently implements the patent in a Facebook game that it acquired, called Pantheon. The plaintiff is seeking damages for the alleged infringement, and asking the court for a permanent injunction to shut down all of Zynga's games. Agincourt said "Zynga's remarkable growth has not been driven by its own ingenuity or innovations. Rather, it has been widely reported that Zynga's business model is to copy creative ideas and designs from other game developers and then use its market power to bulldoze the games' originators." The complaint continues, "Consistent with this reported strategy, Zynga also has violated Agincourt Gaming's intellectual property rights by infringing the '755 patent and the '035 patent." "... Agincourt Gaming's patents-in-suit, which claim priority to 1996, were both far ahead of their time in anticipating the development of credits-based online gaming." Zynga filed for an IPO in July that valued the company at $1 billion.

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