Pot, meet kettle: Zynga sues former GM over IP theft

Zynga has filed a lawsuit against former employee Alan Patmore, claiming the general manager for CityVille has stolen trade secrets.

Michelle Starr Science editor
Michelle Starr is CNET's science editor, and she hopes to get you as enthralled with the wonders of the universe as she is. When she's not daydreaming about flying through space, she's daydreaming about bats.
Michelle Starr
2 min read

A viral advertisement for Kixeye making fun of Zynga, EA and Kabam.
(Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET Australia)

Zynga has filed a lawsuit against former employee Alan Patmore, claiming the general manager for CityVille has stolen trade secrets.

Zynga has been doing terribly during the last nine months or so, losing both money and stock value. It's also been losing staff — including former CityVille GM Alan Patmore, who was scooped up by rival social games developer Kixeye.

Now, however, Zynga is claiming that Patmore copied 760 Zynga files to his Dropbox account — files that, according to Zynga, contain information on Zynga's proprietary method for determining which game mechanics will be successful, monetisation plans, over 10 unreleased game design documents; Zynga's "know-how for effectively monetising free-to-play online games" and other trade secrets.

Zynga added in the suit:

The data Patmore took from Zynga could be used to improve a competitor's internal understanding and know-how of core game mechanics and monetisation techniques, its execution, and ultimately, its market standing to compete more effectively with Zynga. Absent immediate injunctive relief and remedies sought, Zynga will continue to suffer immediate and irreparable harm.

Although trade secret theft is pretty serious business, it nevertheless seems pretty rich coming from a company that blatantly rips off other people's ideas — to the point where the developer is being sued by Electronic Arts over The Ville, which bears an uncanny resemblance to The Sims Social. (Zynga retaliated by claiming that EA was copying it.)

Nor is Zynga shy of suing former employees. In 2009, Zynga sued Playdom, which had hired three former Zynga employees, for theft of trade secrets and breach of contract. In that instance, though, it was the hiring that the developer sued, not the individual employees, and a settlement was reached.

Zynga has been granted a restraining order that prevents Patmore from using, disclosing or destroying the information, as well as a court order allowing forensic analysis of Patmore's computers, iPhone and Dropbox account.

Kixeye CEO Will Harbin is not best pleased with Zynga's antics, telling TechCrunch: "Zynga is burning to the ground and bleeding top talent, and instead of trying to fix the problems — better work environment and better products — they are resorting to the only profit centre that has ever really worked for them: their legal department."