Social gaming king Zynga has begun legal proceedings against Brazilian developer Vostu for "blatant copyright infringement."
Zynga claims that Vostu, which has offices in Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires and New York and is, along with Mentez, the biggest social developer in Brazil, "has brazenly appropriated the copyright-protected aspects of Zynga's games (as well as almost every other aspect of Zynga's business) with scant effort to mask [its] strategy."
Vostu is accused of infringing Zynga's copyrights in FarmVille, Zynga Poker, PetVille, Café World and CityVille, with Mini Fazenda (Mini Farm), Vostu Poker, Pet Mania, Café Mania and MegaCity respectively.
Evidence filed shows a series of striking similarities between the two firms' wares, not just in terms of concept but graphics, layout, menus and more. Zynga points out that Vostu's plagiarism extends to its overall mission statement – Zynga's is "connecting the world through games", Vostu's "to bring you closer to the people around you through games" – and even making the same mistakes.
The filing explains: "In CityVille, the Zynga developers forgot to add the requirement that community buildings be connected to a road in order to function within the game – a requirement for all other buildings. The game was released without that requirement, and the bug was never fixed in Zynga's game. Vostu's MegaCity replicates this 'mistake'." The plagiarism does not stop there.
"Let's be clear," Zynga's general counsel Reggie Davis told TechCrunch. "It is one thing to be inspired by Zynga games, but it is entirely different to copy all our key product features, product strategy, branding, mission statement and employee benefits lock, stock and barrell.
"We welcome Vostu into the arena of social games, but blatant infringement of our creative works is not an acceptable business strategy – it is a violation of the law."
In a statement issued to VentureBeat, Vostu defends itself by pointing out that Zynga's games are far from original works, saying: "Zynga has been accused of copying so many games that they've sadly lost the ability to recognise games like ours that are chock-full of original content and have been independently created.
"Zynga's anti-competitive effort to bully us with a frivolous lawsuit – especially when we have some of the same key investors – is pathetic. While Zynga plays games with the legal process we will continue focusing on using our substantial resources to create games that entertain our customers."
The reference to "substantial resources" is no exaggeration – Vostu recently raised $45.9 million in funding from venture capitalists. While Zynga's games clearly draw inspiration from the likes of Harvest Moon and Sim City, it is one thing to take a long-established gameplay concept and turn it into a social game, and another entirely to quite blatantly appropriate the concept, look, feel and mechanics from the work of a direct competitor.
Zynga is asking the court for damages, costs, and a share of Vostu's profits, as well as an order preventing Vostu from doing the same in future.