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Zynga suing  CityVille  GM who left for Kixeye
Zynga suing CityVille GM who left for Kixeye
October 15, 2012 | By Eric Caoili

Zynga is suing one of the many developers who've recently left the company, former studio GM Alan Patmore (CityVille), over alleged theft of trade secrets before he joined rival developer Kixeye.

According to documents filed with the Superior Court in San Francisco last Friday, Zynga alleges that in the days leading up to his resignation, Patmore copied over seven hundred files containing trade secrets and sensitive business data from his company-issued laptop to a Dropbox online storage account, then tried to cover his tracks by deleting the Dropbox program from his computer.

Those files included metrics data, information on historic and future monetization plans, a final game design document for an unreleased Zynga game, over ten unreleased design documents, company revenue information, 14 months worth of confidential internal emails, and more.

Zynga has struggled to hold onto executives in recent months, losing more than a dozen as bad news on its financial status continues to pile up for the struggling developer. A number of employees who've left the company over the years have taken jobs at social game studio Kixeye (War Commander) -- which the developer notes has "publicly expressed animus" toward Zynga in the past.

The company accuses Patmore of keeping the files as part of his plans to join Kixeye, and says the stolen data "could be used to improve a competitor's internal understanding and know-how of core game mechanics and monetization techniques, its execution, and ultimately its market standing to compete more effectively with Zynga."

A Kixeye spokesperson commented on the lawsuit to All Things Digital: "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."

Patmore had worked at Zynga for 16 months before leaving in August to join Kixeye as Product VP. He has also previously served as Product Development VP at Double Fine and CEO/president at Surreal Software (acquired by Midway in 2004).

Zynga is demanding a jury trial against Patmore for misappropriation of trade secrets and breach of written contract. It's seeking an injunction for the immediate return of its data, a restraining order against Patmore from using that data in any way, compensatory damages, general damages, punitive damages, and attorney's fees.

The original court filing can be read below:

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Benjamin Quintero
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i guess when you can't leech money from your customers anymore you turn to your employees...

Robert Williamson
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This is not looking good. Zynga is grasping a straws now.

In other news... "New Unethical Monetization Model Discovered by Struggling Social Games Company"

Jennifer Jones
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760 files transferred to a personal dropbox account on the day he left the company and they're "grasping at straws"? Does it even matter what company this guy worked for? The guy should go straight to the top of every single industry no-hire list there is.

Benjamin Quintero
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@Jennifer it's hard to say what really happened. This issue is SO much more complicated than Zynga may claim it to be. At a glance it looks like he stole a bunch of files and though that may rate low on your ethical standards it may not be supported in court without knowing exactly what those files are or if they still exist on his account, or if he even had knowledge that his dropbox account was being used like that.

Furthermore, I'm not entirely sure what this guy did at Zynga but I know plenty of stand-up artists who at least want to store screenshots of their work for future employers. It's kind of a gray area because you can forbid your staff from trying to steal your IP but the work that defines that IP is also the resume of those who are looking to move on with their life.

I'm not really defending his actions and I don't know the guy, but I do find it ironic that a company that is known for blatantly poaching game ideas from everyone in their game sphere has suddenly tasted their own kool aid. Forgive me for not caring about their boo hoo's...

If the case is as cut and dry as it looks on paper then I'm sure he'll get what's coming to him, but I never underestimate just how messed up our court system is. So a free-and-clear judgement is just as likely.

Alan Rimkeit
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If he stole files then he will get caught. People who think that they can hide anything done on a computer are delusional. All they have to do is subpoena Dropbox and he is done, if he did in fact steal files. Nothing done on a computer these days ever goes away.

Carlo Delallana
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The things designed to make us more productive away from the office (Dropbox, Google Drive, even a USB stick) are turning into legal liabilities.

Alan Rimkeit
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Most tech companies I have ever worked for forbid the use of any USB storage device, this includes hooking up a device like an iPod. It is usually an offense that can get one fired in my experience.

I also would never use Dropbox(or any other equivalent) at a job on company computers. Most tech companies I have ever work for had FTP servers to transmit data between company employees.

Amir Barak
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only if you do something wrong, surely :P

'course if you're developing a game for the iOS that might be considered somewhat counter-productive... :P

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Complaints are always extremely one-sided so it's not really worth digging too deep into Zynga's allegations from their own materials. As Alan above me says they will need to show proof that he took those materials, and then proof that this wasn't a permitted action during the course of his work (i.e. it violates his agreement) as plenty of companies use Dropbox as remote storage.

Scott Siegel
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Things are never as black and white as a good legal team can make them seem.