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Zynga slams EA in court filing, calls them "desperate"

Zynga slams EA in court filing, calls them "desperate"

Fri 14 Sep 2012 10:13pm GMT / 6:13pm EDT / 3:13pm PDT
PeopleOnlineLegal

The social giant's responses include a counterclaim against EA

Zynga filed legal responses to EA's copyright infringement lawsuit today, asking the judge to strike parts of EA's complaint, answering EA's complaint and demanding a jury trial, and filing a counterclaim against EA alleging breach of contract and violation of California law.

Zynga released the following statement: "Today we responded to EA's claims which we believe have no merit. We also filed a counterclaim which addresses actions by EA we believe to be anticompetitive and unlawful business practices, including legal threats and demands for no-hire agreements. We look forward to getting back to focusing all our efforts on delighting our players." -Reggie Davis, General Counsel, Zynga.

EA's response: "This is a predictable subterfuge aimed at diverting attention from Zynga's persistent plagiarism of other artists and studios. Zynga would be better served trying to hold onto the shrinking number of employees they've got, rather than suing to acquire more." - EA spokesman John Reseburg.

"Zynga would be better served trying to hold onto the shrinking number of employees they've got, rather than suing to acquire more"

EA spokesman John Reseburg

In their first filing, Zynga is asking the judge to strike parts of EA's complaint, stating that they "serve no purpose other than to try to portray Zynga in a bad light" and can't be used to prove EA's complaint. Zynga's attorneys want the judge to remove allegations of copyright infringement related to other games not part of the complaint, and get rid of the copyright registrations for games that are attached as exhibits. Zynga's filing is pointed: "In sharp contrast to the confined inquiry that single claim requires, EA's Complaint is an unrestrained ramble of immaterial, inflammatory, and prejudicial allegations that have no bearing on the issue at hand. These allegations are so patently irrelevant to the case that they appear geared more towards inciting the press coverage they generated than contributing to legal analysis. Zynga therefore moves to strike them."

The second filing by Zynga specifically responds to EA's complaint, and denies everything. In specific terms, Zynga lays out a history of what they call 'life simulation' games, pointing to Activision's Little Computer People from 15 years ago, and Zynga's own YoVille, released in 2008, as predecessors, among others. "It was Activision-not EA-that first developed the ideas found in The Sims Social, and it was Zynga-not EA-that first brought the concept to Facebook" says the filing.

"EA's Complaint is an unrestrained ramble of immaterial, inflammatory, and prejudicial allegations that have no bearing on the issue at hand"

Zynga's court filing

Going further, the filing ridicules the very idea that Zynga would even want to copy The Sims Social. "EA's lawsuit ultimately rests on the implausible assumption that Zynga would launch a "copy" of a game that had failed months before Zynga released its own game. By the time Zynga launched The Ville, the user base for EA's The Sims Social had plummeted, and Zynga is informed and believes that EA already had relegated the game to its India Studio where EA games in decline are sent to be inexpensively maintained and ultimately discontinued."

Zynga denies all of EA's claims and asks the judge to rule in their favor and award them attorney's fees as well, and to have a jury trial for any issues that are not resolved or thrown out. At least EA and Zynga agree on one thing: They both want the issue decided in San Francisco.

Zynga's third filing brings a counterclaim against EA, alleging breach of contract and that EA violated California law concerning hiring. Zynga notes that "EA knows that none of the former EA executives it names in its lawsuit - John Schappert, Jeff Karp, and Barry Cottle - transmitted any EA confidential information to Zynga because EA itself was involved in, and approved of, the exhaustive measures undertaken to ensure that did not happen."

" EA has not been able to successfully compete in the social gaming space and was losing talent, particularly to social gaming leader Zynga. Desperate to stem this exodus, EA undertook an anti-competitive and unlawful scheme"

Zynga's court filing

Zynga's allegations against EA paint an unflattering picture of the rival company. "The truth is that despite years of trying to compete, and spending more than a billion dollars on acquisitions, EA has not been able to successfully compete in the social gaming space and was losing talent, particularly to social gaming leader Zynga. Desperate to stem this exodus, EA undertook an anti-competitive and unlawful scheme to stop Zynga from hiring its employees and to restrain the mobility of EA employees in violation of the spirit of the antitrust laws and California public policy. EA sought, by threat of objectively and subjectively baseless sham litigation, what it could never lawfully obtain from Zynga - a no-hire agreement that would bar Zynga's hiring of EA employees."

The counterclaim against EA is fascinating reading, offering a glimpse inside the high-stakes battles for key employees that is going on all over the high-tech industry. This legal battle is going to be a long one, as neither company shows any sign of compromise on these issue. It's not just a legal battle; it's a public-relations battle between two companies that are both trying to burnish their images with customers and investors. Yes, you could say it's on like Donkey Kong... but that might run afoul of yet another company's trademarks.

6 Comments

Darren Adams
Managing Director

231 413 1.8
This just goes to show that modern law (American in particular) is a mockery of justice plain and simple. It is not about who is wrong or right, it is basically about who can throw the most shit at the opposition and afford the most expensive legal team.

Popcorn at the ready...

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Darren Adams on 15th September 2012 10:53am

Posted:A year ago

#1

Teut Weidemann
Consultant Online Games

51 23 0.5
"EA's lawsuit ultimately rests on the implausible assumption that Zynga would launch a "copy" of a game that had failed months before Zynga released its own game. By the time Zynga launched The Ville, the user base for EA's The Sims Social had plummeted,
When Sims Social was at its peak and Zynga said "copy it" + development time = launch when it did, so whats their argument here. Even if you copy failed products you commit a crime.

Posted:A year ago

#2

Robin Clarke
Producer

300 684 2.3
So they're worried that making the court aware that they appear to have been engaged in systematic plagiarism for the entire time they've been trading might prejudice the case? Perhaps they should have thought about that earlier.

The 'prior art' argument is nonsense, dependent on fudging the difference between directly duplicating the mechanics and aesthetics of a game and noting that previous (utterly different) games exist with a notionally similar theme. Pong exists, so I guess that makes it OK to make a frame by frame imitation of Virtua Tennis.

The "Sims Social was failing anyway" argument is just bizarre. Theft is theft.

Posted:A year ago

#3

Dave Herod
Senior Programmer

521 748 1.4
Going further, the filing ridicules the very idea that Zynga would even want to copy The Sims Social. "EA's lawsuit ultimately rests on the implausible assumption that Zynga would launch a "copy" of a game that had failed months before Zynga released its own game"
It's the kind of argument you'd expect to hear in a school playground, not in court.

Posted:A year ago

#4

Thomas Dolby
Project Manager / Lead Programmer

331 279 0.8
@Darren Adams
Pass some of that popcorn my way, this is gonna be fun to watch. We didn't even have arguments this stupid back when I was at school.

Posted:A year ago

#5

Andrew Ihegbu
Studying Bsc Commercial Music

440 146 0.3
The beauty of this is that everything here is inflammatory.

The Lawyers on the side of Zygna seem to be trying to throw as much vitriol to counter EA as possible to make both Zynga and EA's accusations look like kids bickering. Its a smart strategy. Someone hits you with a dozen accusations that are true (but are beyond the scope of the lawsuit ), hit them back with a dozen false accusations and the Judge will tell you both to shut up and stay on topic, thus silencing the potentially hugely damaging PR and precedents that could be nailed to you to shift the Judges opinion of your company.

Whether it will work is another question entirely though.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Andrew Ihegbu on 17th September 2012 8:20pm

Posted:A year ago

#6

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