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Zynga agrees to end use of term Granger in online games

By Leroy Watson, National Grange Special Director for Trademark Protection and Brand Management, (The New Grange - September/October 2011)

  NOVEMBER 1, 2011 --

An alert Grange member recently brought to our attention the fact that the online FrontierVille game, which is played on the highly popular Facebook website, was misusing the term “Granger.” 

Given the enormous popularity of Facebook and the numerous on-line games which are offered via that website, this unauthorized infringement of the GRANGE trademark had the potential for being the most widely viewed trademark infringement the National Grange has encountered to date. 

Specifically, the FrontierVille game permitted a player to progress through various levels of accomplishment in the game, becoming, in turn, a “Yellow-Bellied Granger,” a “Slack-Jawed Granger,” an “Addleheaded Granger,” and other similarly unflattering connotations that not only infringed on the National Grange’s trademark but also portrayed the term GRANGER in a less than positive light.

The FrontierVille game is not actually owned or managed by Facebook. Facebook contracts with an online game development company called Zynga to produce and manage its popular online games. 

Once we developed solid evidence of the extensive use of the term GRANGER in Zynga’s FrontierVille game, the National Grange contacted Zynga’s General Counsel and their trademark attorney, to ask the company to voluntarily cease using the term GRANGER in their Frontierville game. 

We are pleased to report that Zynga has, at our request, changed all of its references in the FrontierVille game from GRANGER to RANGER, thereby resolving the problem.

In the course of resolving the GRANGER problem, Zynga voluntarily offered to address other concerns about other possible GRANGE references we discovered in other Zynga games, including FarmVille and CityVille. One was a reference to “Newgrange” in the Zynga FarmVille game. Zynga explained that Newgrange is a reference to an historic monument that is actually located in Ireland. The Zynga FarmVille game contains a representation of that monument. 

Because the National Grange has a policy of not enforcing our trademark rights against uses of the term GRANGE that refer to actual geographic place names, the Newgrange reference will stay in the FarmVille game. 

The other GRANGE reference we found took place in an online forum discussion, in which some individual players of the CityVille game used the terms “grange towers” and “grange houses.” 

Zynga’s legal counsel has assured us that those GRANGE terms do not and will not appear in the CityVille game itself.

“The National Grange sincerely thanks Zynga and their legal staff for their prompt response and resolution of our concerns about unauthorized uses of the term GRANGE in their on-line games,” National Grange Master Ed Luttrell said. “Compared to many of the corporate infringements of our trademarks that we have encountered in the past, constructive dialogue, forthright explanation and negotiation between the parties swiftly resulted in a mutually agreeable and beneficial outcome to the conflict at very little legal cost to either party.”

Luttrell also said that as part of our agreement, we have informed them that we, and our dedicated Grange members who are also fans of Zynga’s online games, will continue to monitor these online games for any other unauthorized uses of the GRANGE trademarks. 

If any Grange member discovers any other such unauthorized uses of the Grange trademarks in Zynga games, we ask that they promptly bring them to our attention, so that we can ask Zynga to remove or change those references as well. 

To report any potential trademark infringement, contact National Grange Special Director for Trademark and Brand Management Leroy Watson at leroyawatson@nationalgrange.org or by phone at 888-4-GRANGE ext. 105.


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