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Zynga Faces Patent Infringement Lawsuit From Segan LLC

Zynga Faces Patent Infringement Lawsuit From Segan LLC

August 1, 2011 | By Kyle Orland

Self-described "product invention and development company" Segan LLC has sued social gaming leader Zynga, accusing it of infringing on a patent regarding a "system for viewing content over a network" that facilitates advertising.

While Segan doesn't develop online games, it does hold a patent, filed in 2000 and issued in 2006, describing in broad terms a method for adding "enhancement content for a character icon" by visiting external web sites.

"The user will select website addresses of subscriber target sites where the user can access enhancement content for the character icon to provide functionality to the character icon such as for animating the character icon on the user device," the patent reads, in part.

The patent goes on to give examples of a character -- who exists in a separate browser window -- gaining new outfits, backgrounds, and animated dance moves when a user visits participating web sites.

Zynga's games offer players in-game currency and items for participating in offers from external sites, a controversial practice that has drawn criticism and class-action lawsuits for allegedly misleading advertising tactics.

Segan's lawsuit [PDF] seeks unspecified damages and a permanent injunction against Zynga's use of the patented technology, or an order that Zynga pay royalties to Segan for use of the technology.

Zynga is currently embroiled in a number of other lawsuits, including dueling copyright infringement claims with social developer Vostu, and a patent infringement suit brought by Walker Digital over a technique for running online game tournaments.

The company has previously settled a trademark infringement lawsuit with Digital Chocolate over Mafia Wars, as well as a trade secrets lawsuit with rival Playdom.

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