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Another day, another trade secrets leak for Machine Zone

Disgruntled employee Jing Zeng stole data to negotiate a severance package

Machine Zone is once again the victim of an alleged theft of its trade secrets, this time with a disgruntled former employee who stole sensitive information to use as a bargaining tool for his severance package.

Jing Zeng, 42, joined Machine Zone in November 2014, but he clashed with his managers after becoming dissatisfied and requesting to change teams. The two sides could not agree on a path forward, and Zeng was told he should leave the company.

At this point, the alleged theft occurred. According to court documents obtained by the Wall Street Journal, Zeng downloaded more than 100 files on player behaviour in Game of War: Fire Age to a company laptop. He transferred the files to an external hard-drive and formatted the laptop before returning it to the office.

Zeng then attempted to negotiate his severance package with the stolen files as leverage. Machine Zone contacted the FBI during these negotiations, and Zeng was arrested as he attempted to board a flight to China at San Francisco Airport on August 20.

The court documents said that the stolen data could, "provide valuable insight and a huge competitive advantage over other online game providers and competitors." If convicted, Zeng now faces a maximum sentence of ten years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

While Machine Zone is not involved in a lawsuit with Zeng, this is the second time in a week that a story has surfaced regarding the improper use of its trade secrets. At the start of this week, the company filed a lawsuit after comments made at a cocktail party alerted CEO Gabriel Leydon to the possibility that Kabam had obtained a copy of a "deck" circulated to potential investors.

Kabam has claimed that the document doesn't exist, calling the lawsuit "preposterous." Machine Zone responded by saying that it is now, "even more certain this action is necessary."

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Matthew Handrahan avatar
Matthew Handrahan: Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.
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