Following the recent hiring of Ubisoft's Martin Tremblay as the new President, Worldwide Studios at Vivendi Games, Ubisoft has taken the major step of getting a preliminary injunction against former Ubisoft Montreal head Tremblay in the Quebec Superior Court, in an attempt to enforce the non-compete clause which has been a source of major controversy in Montreal gaming circles of late.
According to a statement issued by Ubisoft, the Honorable Robert Mongeon, J.S.C. has issued a preliminary injunction in favor of Ubisoft, ordering that Martin Tremblay “abstain and cease immediately, directly or indirectly, competing with applicant Ubisoft…” and “...cease immediately working, directly or indirectly, within the territories of Canada, the United States and Mexico, for his own behalf or on behalf of any third party, in any business which manufactures or commercializes video products that may compete with products sold, manufactured or developed by applicant Ubisoft”. This is due to the fact that Ubisoft's contract with Tremblay restricted him from working with competitors for a period of time (in the other cases, a year) after leaving Ubisoft.
The injunction is valid until 5:00 PM on Tuesday May 9, 2006, at which point Ubisoft has announced it intends to apply "for a safeguard order" extending the injunction. Tremblay is believed to be currently working from Vivendi's Los Angeles offices, so it is unclear at the time of this article's publication how the injunction in a different country would immediately affect his position.
The controversy is particularly notable because Tremblay was Ubisoft's central figure supporting the company's non-compete clause repeated clashes between Electronic Arts and Ubisoft over hiring for the companies' Montreal offices. In the most recent of these, EA hired Ubisoft employees in January 2006, continuing a tussle on the matter which saw a legal decision back in 2003 in favor of Ubisoft, after EA hired a number of ex-Splinter Cell personnel without the non-compete clause expiring.
At the time, EA Montreal's Alain Tascan called for Ubisoft "stop the illegitimate practice of forcing talented people to sign employment contracts that restrict their creative and economic freedom", a charge that Tremblay denied was valid on previous occasions, but now Tremblay has been legally challenged under that same clause.
According to Ubisoft, honorable justice Robert Mongeon made the following observations in his judgment: “He (Martin Tremblay) with full knowledge of the situation chose to be employed by Vivendi, knowing full well that he was heading for a serious confrontation, if only for the fact that he himself had commanded the litigation involving Ubisoft and Electronic Arts in 2003. To provoke such a confrontation and now complain of the resulting inconvenience demonstrates, at the very least, a brazen attitude.”
When interviewed by Gamasutra last month, new Ubisoft Montreal CEO Yannis Mallat commented of the previous EA/Ubisoft controversy: "I think that we, as a company, as at any other company, we have something to protect because it's our knowledge. It's our know-how. It's our big input in the global company scheme. It's pretty usual to have such a clause in our contract. So I think that's something normal that happens. The goal is not to be scared to see our people leave. The goal is to be comfortable that they will stay."
Mallat also commented, when asked: "Under your administration, if [employees] do leave, are you going to pursue it in any manner?", by stating: "I really don't think I'll comment on this one, because I don't see any issue there." According to today's statement by Ubisoft, apparently an issue has been found.