Zynga faces retaliatory lawsuit brought by Kixeye

The niche game maker promises to fight to its "last breath" in a new lawsuit it's bringing against the social-gaming giant regarding accusations of trade secret theft.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
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Kixeye's Alan Patmore is accused of stealing Zynga trade secrets when he was general manager of CityVille. Zynga

Kixeye took another stab at Zynga in the ongoing legal battle between the two gaming companies.

The game maker announced today that it filed a cross-complaint against Zynga in the Superior Court of California. The move comes as retaliation for an earlier suit that Zynga filed against both Kixeye and one of its employees who formerly worked on Zynga's CityVille game.

"We will fight to our last breath to keep this predatory company from accessing our confidential information and best practices," Kixeye CEO Will Harbin said in a statement to CNET today. "We intend to defend ourselves from Zynga's legal bullying for as long as it takes to reveal the truth -- that Kixeye played no part in this."

The legal tit-for-tat first got started when Zynga filed a complaint against its former general manager on CityVille Alan Patmore, who left the game maker in August to join Kixeye as vice president of product. In the complaint, Zynga alleged that Patmore nabbed 763 files from the game maker, including confidential game designs, and brought them to Kixeye.

Then, Zynga took it a step further and named Kixeye as a defendant in the lawsuit. The CityVille maker claims that Kixeye knew Patmore was in possession of the files and asked to see them. Zynga is seeking damages and attorney's fees.

In its cross-complaint, Kixeye says that it has no need to see the files that contained trade secrets because the two companies work on totally different products.

"In short, Kixeye is a smaller company that makes games specifically designed to appeal to a niche market, while Zynga is a large company that makes games targeted at obtaining mass appeal," the complaint says. "Comparing Kixeye's games to Zynga's games is like comparing a Ducati racing motorcycle to a minivan."

Patmore admitted to taking the documents in October when the court awarded Zynga a temporary restraining order. Also, Kixeye admitted in its cross-complaint that Patmore did indeed share two documents with the gaming company but said that neither one had to do with Zynga trade secrets or proprietary information.

Kixeye is now asking the court to stop Zynga from inferring in its recruiting practices and business relations. It is also seeking attorney fees and costs.

"We believe Zynga is manipulating the legal process and fabricating claims against Kixeye to access our trade secrets," Harbin said in his statement. "We will not stand for it. This matter was shameful enough when it was focused on bleeding one of their former employees. When they broadened this frivolous claim to include Kixeye, they showed their hand."

CNET contacted Zynga for comment. We'll update the story when we get more information.

Here's Kixeye's complaint:

Zynga Vs. Alan Patmore, Kixeye