EA vs Zynga Could be Awhile

On Friday, EA sent a strong message to anyone with the guts to “copy” them by suing Zynga over the similarities of EA’s The Sims Social and Zynga’s The Ville, both facebook games. Wedbush Securities analyst and attorney Michael Pachter recently spoke with GamesIndustry about the case saying that EA’s claims “have a ring of truth, while other appear harmless” and that he sees the case lasting for years. He states:

We are convinced that EA will press on with this lawsuit until it receives a jury verdict, and we think that sufficient controversy over the facts exists to preclude a grant of summary judgment. It is our opinion that the two companies will remain adversaries for the next several years over this case, and we do not expect the case to be resolved for several years

Pachter also doesn’t think that their will be any financial gain/loss for either side for quite sometime stating:

In the meantime, it is difficult to assess the likelihood that EA will receive significant damages, and equally likely to assess the likelihood that Zynga will be required to shut down its game. This case reminds us of the ‘Barbie vs. Bratz’ case, which has dragged on for seven years without resolution.

Pachter emphasizes the complexities that are involved in a copyright case as well as not seeing any resolution before 2013. He states:

Copyright infringement cases are complex, and it is exceedingly difficult for plaintiffs to prove that defendants misappropriated their ideas. Even if misappropriation is proved, juries may declare ‘no harm, no foul’. This case is likely to drag on for quite some time, and it is difficult to assess the impact on either EA or Zynga. As we do not expect a resolution prior to the end of 2013, our estimates for both EA and Zynga will remain unchanged for the time being

Pachter gives a excellent example of how the difference between emulation and out-right infringement is a extremely fine line, using Medal of Honor and Call of Duty. He states:

The concept of The Sims is life simulation, so eating, sleeping, home improvement, dating, breaking up, earning money, etc. all are ordinary activities engaged in by most people. We believe that emulation of a life simulation game, in and of itself, would not ordinarily give rise to a successful lawsuit.

For example, EA’s own Medal of Honor franchise was emulated by Activision’s Call of Duty franchise, and the initial developers of the latter franchise worked on the immediately past version of the former before going to work for Activision. EA did not seek to stop Activision from emulating its World War II military shooter game, as it apparently understood that games based upon real-life events that were in the public domain were difficult to copyright and protect. Activision’s game was sufficiently different from EA’s that a lawsuit was unlikely to prevail. The same reasoning leads us to conclude that the mere emulation of a life simulation game would be insufficient, in and of itself, to result in successful lawsuit.