Zynga’s Countersuit Accuses EA of Trying to Force a No-Hire Pact

    Zynga on Friday fired back at the copyright-infringement lawsuit filed by rival Electronic Arts and in a countersuit alleged that EA tried to pressure Zynga into a no-hire agreement from poaching any more of its staff. (You may recall that such alleged agreements between Google, Apple and other tech companies raised the ire of the Justice Department.)

    Electronic Arts had claimed that Zynga copied EA’s “The Sims Social” in producing its new game “The Ville.” In trying to focus the court on solely those two games, it asked the court to strike portions of EA’s lawsuit containing the work of bloggers and other writers about the alleged copying, which Zynga calls “an unrestrained ramble of immaterial, inflammatory, and prejudicial allegations that have no bearing on the issue at hand,” TechCrunch reports.

    Wrote Zynga:

    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.

    It claims EA tried to force Zynga into a no-hire agreement with the threat of a lawsuit over the hiring of three executives even though EA was involved in the process through which they hired at Zynga. The thing is, only two of the three are still there. COO John Schappert left in August and marketing chief Jeff Karp made his exit this month. Barry Cottle, who joined Zynga from EA in January, remains as executive vice president of business and corporate development.

    In an email response to Bloomberg, EA spokesman John Reseburg said of Zynga’s attack:

    This is a 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.

    Indeed, Zynga paid out stock awards to all full-time employees in July in an attempt to retain them, though rank-and-file employees reportedly have been fuming because the company brass got a far better deal, with the stock price in steep decline this summer.

    And Zynga’s insiders, including CEO Mark Pincus, are being investigated amid allegations of insider trading when they sold their shares in April.

    EA has its own woes, though, including its president of labels, Frank Gibeau, saying the employment situation at Zynga is “as stable as Syria right now” and a promotion endorsing the sale of weapons in its new Medal of Honor game, reports GamesIndustry International. After an outcry over that, the company has announced it will donate $1 for each copy sold of its new map pack for “Medal of Honor Warfighter, Zero Dark Thirty” to non-profit veterans organizations.

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