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Battle between Zynga and former employee heats up

Judge says Zynga can search Alan Patmore's Kixeye computer; Kixeye: "Zynga is burning to the ground"

Financial trends and news by Steven Loeb
October 17, 2012 | Comments
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/2afd

The battle between Zynga and former Cityville General Manager Alan Patmore will be going forward, thanks to a ruling by a judge Tuesday.

Judge Harold Khan ruled in favor of Zynga, continuing the restraining order against former Cityville General Manager Alan Patmore that had been put in place on October 12. The judge also granted Zynga’s request to have Patmore deposed, and for forensic experts to search his Kixeye computer.

In the court order, the judge reiterated that “Patmore, and his agents and all persons in active concert and participation with him, are prohibited from destroying, shredding altering, deleting, erasing, or otherwise modifying, or causing or permitting anyone else to destroy, shred, alter, delete or erase, or otherwise modify, any evidence constituting or relating to the Zynga files at issue.”

Patmore is mandated to identify all Zynga data in his possession, and, if he doesn’t have it anymore, he must tell the court what happened to it. He must also tell the court who, if anyone, he showed the data to. The forensic experts will make a list of all of the Zynga data on Patmore’s Kixeye computer, and the data will then be deleted off his computer by the expert.

Patmore will also be required to contact Dropbox in writing, asking them to preserve his cloud storage account.

Lawsuit background

In August, Cityville general manager Alan Patmore left the company after working there a little over a year to go work for rival gaming company Kixeye, to overseeing all aspects of product strategy and development. 

Then, last week, Zynga accused Patmore in a legal filing with the Superior Court of the State of California, of breaching his contract, and of stealing company secrets.

Zynga says that Patmore stole 760 files by putting them into a Dropbox account, which he then attempted to delete once they were on his personal Cloud storage. The 760 files allegedly stolen include internal assessments of Zynga games, future plans for Cityville, monetization plans for Cityville, over 10,000 design documents, information concerning revenue and employee compensation, and 14 months of confidental communications regarding product reviews, business strategies, acquisition targets, market analysis, key hires, sales projections and financial estimates.

Earlier this week, a spokesperson from Kixeye released a statement to VatorNews, in which the company denied having anything to do with the lawsuit, but it still managed to take a shot at Zynga.

"KIXEYE has nothing to do with the suit. Unfortunately, this appears to be Zynga's new employee retention strategy: Suing former employees to scare current employees into staying. They've clearly exhausted other options in their employee retention playbook,” a spokesperson from Kixeye said.

A statement from Kixeye CEO Will Harbin, released to VatorNews today, though, is far more blistering. Harbin not only goes after Zynga for the lawsuit, but trashes the company’s poor performance since its December IPO as well.

“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 center that has ever really worked for them: their legal department. It is simply another case of Zynga vindictively persecuting a former employee as an individual. Given their financial situation it all feels pretty desperate. Our games have little in common with the ones that Zynga is known for. We make synchronous, combat strategy games. They make asynchronous cow clicking games. We have 2 of the top 7 highest grossing games on Facebook. Why on earth would we want to emulate a business that has seen a 75% decline in share price since their debut? According to their S1 their games average $.06 ARPDAU. Our games generate up to 20x that. You do the math.”

Jay Monahan, deputy general counsel at Zynga, also released a statement, according to VentureBeat, saying, “Today, the Court ruled in our favor by continuing the temporary restraining order against Mr. Patmore, including anyone acting in concert with him. The Court also ordered three additional categories of relief in favor of Zynga ordering (1) expedited deposition of Patmore, (2) forensics of Patmore’s work issued computer, personal computer and iPhone and (3) forensics of Patmore’s personal Dropbox account.”

“Patmore does not dispute that he took 763 files from Zynga, which contained confidential game designs from teams around the company, and that he transferred those files to his computer at Kixeye where he’s currently the VP of Product. We are pleased with the judge’s decision and will continue to work to protect the ideas and assets of our employees.”

Zynga could not be reached for comment.

Read the judge's ruling below:

Order Granting Ex Parte App.

(Image source: http://www.pbase.com)


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