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By Frederic Lardinois

(1) The Ville on Facebook

Zynga (NASDAQ:ZNGA) has a bit of a reputation for cloning other game developers' ideas. Now, the company is being sued by gaming giant Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA) on behalf of its Maxis label for "infringing EA's copyrights to its Facebook game, The Sims Social."

Lucy Bradshaw, General Manager of EA's Maxis Label, says Zynga's The Ville "copied the original and distinctive expressive elements of The Sims Social in a clear violation of U.S. copyright laws." The degree to which Zynga copied The Sims, says Electronic Arts, "was so comprehensive that the two games are, to an uninitiated observer, largely indistinguishable."

Zynga's response to this, which we just received from a company spokesperson, is that TheVille "builds on every major innovation from our existing invest-and-express games dating back to YoVille and continuing through CityVille and CastleVille, and introduces a number of new social features and game mechanics not seen in social games today." The company's General Counsel Reggie Davis also says that it's "ironic that EA brings this suit shortly after launching SimCity Social which bears an uncanny resemblance to Zynga's CityVille game. Nonetheless, we plan to defend our rights to the fullest extent possible and intend to win with players." We included the full response below.

In her blog post, EA's Bradshaw notes Zynga's history of cloning other developer's work. While other small developers may not have the resources to stand up against the social gaming company, Electronic Arts and Maxis have the resources "to do something about it" and that the company is taking a stand "helps the industry protect the value of original creative works and those that work tirelessly to create them."

Zynga is obviously going through a rough time already. Earlier this week, the company was sued over allegedly misleading financial statements. Zynga Q2 earnings also fell short of expectations, despite the fact that the number of active daily users was up significantly over the last three months. The company's shares currently trade at under $3.

When the company launched The Ville in June, virtually every reviewer noted the similarities to The Sims Social and many. The game, however, does add a few new features to the genre, including its own build-in social and other small gameplay tweaks. Electronic Arts assumes that Zynga will use these tweaks as a defense against its lawsuit. Bradshaw, however, says EA is "confident in our position, and that we will prevail."

Here is Zynga's full response:

"We are committed to creating the most fun, innovative, social and engaging games in every major genre that our players enjoy. The Ville is the newest game in our 'ville' franchise - it builds on every major innovation from our existing invest-and-express games dating back to YoVille and continuing through CityVille and CastleVille, and introduces a number of new social features and game mechanics not seen in social games today. It's unfortunate that EA thought that this was an appropriate response to our game, and clearly demonstrates a lack of understanding of basic copyright principles. It's also ironic that EA brings this suit shortly after launching SimCity Social which bears an uncanny resemblance to Zynga's CityVille game. Nonetheless, we plan to defend our rights to the fullest extent possible and intend to win with players." -Reggie Davis, General Counsel, Zynga

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Source: Electronic Arts Sues Zynga, Says The Ville Is An 'Unmistakable Copy' Of The Sims