The Learning Company believes that Zynga wants a "free-ride" with their "Oregon Trail" FrontierVille expansion.
The Learning Company (TLC), the makers of The Oregon Trail, have filed a lawsuit (PDF) in the Massachusetts district court that accuses Zynga of trademark infringement related to the long running educational franchise. Specifically, the lawsuit takes issue with the May 30 launch of a set of "Oregon Trail" expansion missions planned for Zynga's popular FrontierVille, and TLC is seeking monetary damages and a preliminary injunction that would prevent Zynga from using the "Oregon Trail" in their game.
TLC points to a Zynga YouTube trailer to illustrate the similarities between the original Oregon Trail and the Zynga add-on - common activities include "setting up a wagon, provisioning, hunting, fording rivers, and helping others" - and argues that the use of the "Oregon Trail" name is a "deliberate theft of the goodwill associated with the iconic The Oregon Trail Mark, which the company has spent millions of dollars promoting since 1971."
"There can be no doubt that Zynga’s adoption of an identical and confusingly similar mark is willful and intended to free-ride on the established goodwill of The Oregon Trail Mark," continues the complaint.
Interestingly, however, it seems as if the whole situation could have been avoided. According to the suit, TLC approached Zynga about a possible Facebook port of The Oregon Trail sometime last year, but talks eventually fell through and the educational software company opted to partner with Blue Fang instead. Blue Fang launched the Facebook version of The Oregon Trail in February, and the game has attracted approximately 1.2 million players.