Exclusive: Zynga’s Alan Patmore case gets more complicated with Kixeye cross-complaint
Zynga’s lawsuit against Alan Patmore just had another legal layer added to it: Kixeye’s legal team filed a cross-complaint against Zynga yesterday afternoon. Kixeye’s complaint alleges that Zynga’s lawsuit against Patmore is designed to “send a message to its employees about the consquences of leaving Zynga to work at Kixeye and to gain access to Kixeye’s confidential information and trade secrets.
Kixeye’s complaint says the company is looking to prevent Zynga from continuing to pursue legal action against Kixeye, keep the company from threatening or initiating litigation against employees from leaving Zynga to work at Kixeye, stop Zynga from interfering with Kixeye’s business relationships, force Zynga to notify employees of their rights to seek employment with competitors and to require Zynga to provide the court with quarterly sworn statements of compliance. Kixeye is also seeking restitution in legal fees and damages, to be determined by the court.
The cross-complaint highlights the fundamental differences between Zynga and Kixeye, primarily that Kixeye makes mid-core games for a smaller audience while Zynga develops large titles designed for maximum appeal to casual audiences. “Comparing Kixeye’s games to Zynga’s games is like comparing a Ducati racing motorcycle to a minivan. Both are motorized vehicles, but Ducati motorcycles, like Kixeye’s midcore games, appeal to a small but passionate group who are focused on quality and performance,” the complaint reads. “Zynga is more concerned with cranking out games that will fit the whole family without offending anyone.”
The counter-claim also says Kixeye makes original, creative games, while highlighting Zynga’s controversial “fast follow” development process. Other points mentioned include Zynga’s problematic IPO and ongoing troubles with its stock price, as well as its efforts to enter the mid-core market by acquiring studios like A Bit Lucky and November Software, as well as publishing mid-core titles on Zynga.com. Kixeye calls Zynga’s mid-core efforts “a desperate attempt to resuscitate the company by re-inventing itself.”
Meanwhile, in the document’s factual allegations section, Kixeye says that while Patmore left Zynga in August, Zynga didn’t have his laptop undergo a forensic imaging until 36 days later (2 days before he started working at Kixeye). Zynga didn’t file suit until October 12, 22 days later, claiming Patmore took 760 documents from his office computer and backed them up online, providing insight into Zynga’s core game mechanics and monetization practices. The documents supposedly include unreleased game design documents, his entire email inbox, monetization plans and revenue projection. On Oct. 16, a judge granted a temporary restraining order preventing Patmore from using, discussing or copying the info in the documents he’s accused of taking, as well as being prevented from engaging in any activity that has anything to do with developing online games that would use Zynga’s trade secrets.
In a statement, Kixeye CEO Will Harbin said:
“We believe Zynga is manipulating the legal process and fabricating claims against Kixeye to access OUR trade secrets. Their illustrious history of using their legal department to exploit and slander competitors that they can’t otherwise out-perform is well documented. 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. We will fight to our last breath to keep this predatory company from accessing our confidential information and best practices. 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. As we have stated previously, we have ZERO interest in Zynga’s IP or “trade secrets.” Our games are categorically different from theirs in almost every way. Claiming that their failed business practices could inform ours further establishes their complete lack of understanding of the gaming business.”
We’ve reached out to Zynga for a statement. In the meantime, you can read the whole cross-complaint here.