To address the elephant in the room Zynga isn't very popular, lots of people hate them and their practices. I definitely won't defend what they have done with some of their business choices. EA has a rough bit of time with their PR, lots of bad choices, winning (?loosing?) worst company of the year 2012 lots of people hate their use of DLC and other business choices.
However, and please read this sentence twice:
This is not a popularity contest, this is a legal matter which can change game development significantly.
Preface: This is purely on the topic of gameplay and mechanics, visual & audio elements are protected. In a phrase, "you can copyright proper nouns, you cannot copyright verbs or simple nouns". You cannot copyright 'wizard', you can copyright Harry Potter. You can copyright your picture of a duck, you cannot copyright pictures of ducks or the concept of ducks.
If EA wins this this case, they will have for the first time ever, gotten copyright law to apply to actual gameplay. This is dangerous, allow me to put that into context. Inside the law suit they have the following:
Players have the option for their Sims to learn skills and follow career paths.
Does that sound like: Classes
Each Sim has a set of fluctuating needs. These needs include basic bodily needs,such as hunger, energy, comfort, hygiene, and bladder needs, and players must act accordingly by eating, resting, washing themselves, and relieving as necessary
Almost as if you're raising a: Virtual Pet
Sims do not speak English to one another, but rather speak “Simlish,” a garbled language of made-up words, thus leaving the meaning of the language to the imagination of the players
Simlish is a good name, but so is: Gibberish
Dig through the lawsuit and take a look, this is just a few of the ones that I found in just my first read through.
What is the bottom line here?
EA should not win this lawsuit against Zynga in it's current form. The scope is way to broad, if they wish to make the case about Art and Sound being to similar that's perfectly fine and they should with all their might.
Big companies are real slime balls when crib their games from smaller companies. I feel terrible for Johann Sebastian Joust team, it's terrible to have an idea stolen that hurts your product, and your livelihood. However, the alternative if gameplay concepts can be protected by copyright law is that after a huge layer frenzy, the small developers will be served papers demanding the stoppage of sale and a check for using company XYZ's gameplay element that they have under copyright.
EDIT: I was incorrect in saying that this was the first gameplay copyright case, there was one just over a month ago by "The Tetris Company", a notorious copyright bully you can read about the June 2012 case here: http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2012/06/defining-tetris-how-courts-judge-gaming-clones/ EA is current publisher for "The Tetris Company" and it's games.