ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What's More Exciting than FarmVille?

Well, anything really. . . .


(sorry about the commercial)

But the answer we were looking for is a lawsuit about FarmVille:

According to a decision issued on February 6, 2012, by Oakland, California Judge Yvonne Gonzales Rogers, popular game developer Zynga, Inc., (“Zynga”), may owe some of its success to rival game creator, SocialApps, LLC, (“SA”).  As stated in SA’s First Amended Complaint, the company invested substantial time, resources and money to develop “myFarm,” the first social networking game to allow players to create their own virtual farms, which it released on Facebook in or about November 2008.  In or about May of 2009, Zynga approached SA about a possible purchase or license agreement regarding intellectual property rights, confidential information and source code for myFarm.  The parties subsequently entered into a letter agreement wherein SA agreed to provide information to Zynga for “due diligence” purposes.  Under both the express and implied terms of the agreement the parties had a mutual expectation that if Zynga used SA’s myFarm concept and distinct features, Zynga would compensate SA for such use.  However, once SA provided Zynga with its source code for myFarm, Zynga stopped communicating and never compensated or credited SA.

 After Zynga’s June 19, 2009 release of its own game, FarmVille, SA filed suit, believing Zynga had used its confidential source code without permission or compensation to develop the game.  Zynga subsequently filed a Motion to Dismiss SA’s claims of misappropriation of trade secrets and various breach of contract claims.  Judge Rogers allowed the various breach of contract claims to move forward, but dismissed the claim in regards to theft of trade secrets related to images and various features of myFarm, on the grounds that these images were available to the public before the May 2009 letter agreement or June 2009 release of FarmVille.

While Zynga obtained a partial win, Judge Rogers let stand the three claims for breach of implied contract, confidence, and implied covenant related to the myFarm source code.  According to the Judge, “the allegations here are sufficient to allege conduct beyond a mere breach of the terms of the agreement which would support a claim for tort damages."   As reported by, Zynga has yet to seek dismissal of SA’s claims for copyright infringement and breach of written contract. 

[JT & Christina Phillips]

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