Ubisoft obtains injunction against THQ to prevent talent drain

Patrice Désilets named as breaching non-solicit contract at THQ Montreal

Ubisoft has taken a court injunction out against ex-employees Patrice Désilets and Adolfo Gomez-Urda to prevent them from continuing to breach non-solicitation clauses in their employment contracts.

Both were accused of headhunting former Ubisoft colleagues to join them at the new THQ Montreal studio.

The story was originally broken by French site Rue Frontenac, and was translated and pursued by Game Informer, which received the following Ubisoft statement.

This procedure aims to protect Ubisoft Montreal in a breach of contract situation, and to defend the long-term financial and creative health of the studio.

Statement from Ubisoft

"Ubisoft has filed a request before the Superior Court of Québec for injunction orders against THQ Inc. in order to have them comply with the non-solicit clause included in Ubisoft Montreal's employee work contracts. The Superior Court of Québec has granted the injunctions to the satisfaction of Ubisoft.

"This procedure aims to protect Ubisoft Montreal in a breach of contract situation, and to defend the long-term financial and creative health of the studio."

The Assassin's Creed creator and fellow ex-Ubisoft employee Gomez-Urda now both work for THQ's new 'super studio' in Montreal, with Désilets leaving in May, 2010 after twelve years at the studio and six working on Assassin's Creed.

Shortly afterwards, in July of that year, it was announced that THQ would be opening the Montreal office, with Désilets widely speculated to be that studio's new head. Not long after that, Désilets was confirmed in the job, beginning only when his non-compete clause with Ubisoft expires in May.

Between July 2010 and the present, three high-ranking members of the Assassin's Creed team announced their resignation from Ubisoft, citing various reasons for doing so. The three staffers were artistic director Alex Drouin, production manager Mark Besner, and associate producer Jean-Francois Boivin. All had signed up to THQ's new Montreal venture, working under Désilets.

Ubisoft's pique turned to ire when THQ's Danny Bilson made explicit in an interview with Joystiq that all three had been headhunted from Ubisoft as a result of a direct request from Désilets.

"I don't think I can talk about the other three people we've already contracted," said Bilson. "I just know Patrice said, 'I need these three guys.' And I said 'Okay! Whatever you need!' We put all of them on retention and got them started on their non-compete [clauses]. I kind of know what their roles are, but they were the most important people to Patrice. All three of them are Ubi."

By implicating Désilets in the decision, Bilson made it clear that the studio head was in breach of the non-solicitation clause of his contract, designed to prevent key members of staff from cherry-picking colleagues to accompany them to pastures new.

Adolfo Gomez-Urda was also named by Ubisoft as having approached his former colleague in the localisation department, Margherita Seconnino, and encouraging her to join also. Both are now under point of law to refrain from attempting to recruit any further former Ubisoft staff.

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Latest comments (13)

Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D11 years ago
Awesome. Good to see Canadian tax dollars at work.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Fran Mulhern on 31st March 2011 9:36am

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Phil Williams principle artist, Black Rock Studio11 years ago
haha!!..wish we had that problem in the UK. its like the old days
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Jason Stewart Associate Producer, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe11 years ago
Imagine this being applied to football?! Heaven forbid!
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Show all comments (13)
Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D11 years ago
Let's remember this is to do with non-solicitation clauses though. I guess Ubi aren't saying people can't go work for rivals, just that if they do then they're not allowed to poach their old colleagues - though their colleagues are presumably free to go work for rivals anyway.

Problem is, in a city like Montreal, that's its own development hub with no major city for several hours drive, it's going to be very difficult to police that. Someone leaves Ubi, goes to, say, Eidos. But they're still friends with the Ubi lot, and they didn't have to relocate so they still mix with them socially. Of course they're going to end up poaching them, and it's going to work both ways. Friends talk, and there's not much you can do about it.

Re Milos' comment :"There would be no talent drain from Ubisoft if they were treating those talents with more respect or if they treated the undeserving ones with less respect." Reminds me of what one developer who moved over there from Europe said to me - there are a fair number of people at his Montreal studio that would struggle to get jobs in Europe as they're simply not that good. But they're bums on seats and that's what counts when it comes to bribing the government to give them money. Go figure.

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Funny how what goes around comes around..
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Neil Alphonso Lead Designer, Splash Damage Ltd11 years ago
Sounds like Bilson practically forced them into action. Whoops.
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Mihai Cozma Indie Games Developer 11 years ago
I wonder how can anyone detect which was the actual person to approach them. I mean I have in my social messaging apps (like yahoo, skype and others) more than 100 contacts that I've made during my previous jobs. Some of those are still my friends and we talk often. If I were to say to one of them: "hey, we have an open position here at where I work, check it out", nobody can prove I actually did that, and my friend can just apply for the open position like anybody else.

I think in the situation described in this article someone said too much in an interview, but apart from that, it cannot be proven.
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Des Gayle Director & Game Producer, Altered Gene Limited11 years ago
@Mihai Gah! You beat me to it, well said.
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Stefano Ronchi Indie Game Developer 11 years ago
LOL what a numpty -talk about foot in mouth. Amusing nevertheless, just the kind of thing I'd do in such a situation without thinking :P
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Michael Vandendriessche Studying Computer Science, K.U. Leuven11 years ago
From Ubisofts point of view, it's normal they want to protect their people. They don't want a chainreaction of talented people going to a different studio.

from the other side, it's a pretty ridiculous rule to not be allowed to persuade an ex-colleague to apply for a job in a different company.
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Torgeir Hagland Sr Programmer, Gaikai Inc.11 years ago
ubi is forgetting the golden rule: "happy people don't leave"
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Neil Young Programmer, Rebellion Developments11 years ago
This doesn't sound like they're taking any action against the staff themselves, though only the ones accused of headhunting? presumably if someone at ubi quit and got a job at thq on a whim that'd be fine (non-compete aside, etc). The injunction is stopping the approaching itself, not the people changing firms?
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Neil Aldis Assistant Manager, Mobile Project Development, Capcom11 years ago
Foot in mouth - right up to the knee!
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