Zynga Sues Former Employee For Stealing Trade Secrets

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Zynga Inc (NASDAQ:ZNGA) filed a complaint in San Francisco, on Friday against Alan Patmore, its former general manager, for misappropriation of trade secrets and breach of written contract. The gaming firm which has recently witnessed the departure of its several key executives may have found a new way to strike back at them in the form of a lawsuit, alleging “the wholesale theft of some of its most sensitive and commercially valuable data”.

In the lawsuit filed, Zynga Inc (NASDAQ:ZNGA) claims that, Patmore took 760 documents from his work computer and backed them up online before his last day. The gaming company further claims, that the highly confidential 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”.

Regarding the nature of the documents, Zynga claims that the stolen documents relate to game maker’s business, including revenue projections, monetization plans, more than 10 unreleased game design documents, employee compensation details, strategic road maps, and his entire email box, containing 14 months of confidential communications. Summing it up, the complaint reads “In short, Patmore copied virtually every email he received or sent while he was a GM at Zynga”.

As an interim relief, Zynga Inc (NASDAQ:ZNGA) got a temporary restraining order from the court. The order from the court, restricts Patmore from using or disclosing the data to anyone, or from copying the information, or engaging in any activities related to developing online game applications that use Zynga’s trade secrets.

Patmore joined Zynga Inc (NASDAQ:ZNGA) in June 2011 and has served as the general manager of CityVille. In August, this year, Patmore left Zynga and joined a rival social game maker in San Francisco, Kixeye, as VP of Product. Kixeye is a  smaller Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) games developer, that has been poaching talent away from Zynga. Kixeye spokesperson responded to email from allthingsd.com, saying “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 similar lawsuit was filed by Zynga in 2009, against four of its former employees, accusing them of stealing trade secrets and using that information against them after joining The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS)’s Playdom. Zynga will come up with another request on Tuesday, including the return of the data, access to Patmore’s Dropbox account, and other details.

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