Zynga fears cloning and sues former exec [Update]

CityVille's ex-general manager alleged to have taken more than 760 sensitive docs

Struggling social games firm Zynga has launched legal action against former key executive Alan Patmore, accusing him of stealing - among other things - various company trade secrets.


The complaint alleges that, on August 15th, Patmore stored some 760 internal files on his DropBox account (a cloud storage service).

Update: Zynga has settled its lawsuit against Patmore and his employer at Kixeye. The terms of the "mutually agreeable settlement" were not disclosed, and it is not known how involved Kixeye has been in terms of remuneration to Zynga.

"I accept responsibility for making a serious mistake by copying and taking Zynga confidential information when I resigned from Zynga," Patmore said in a statement.

"I understand the consequences of my actions and I sincerely apologise to Zynga and my former colleagues."

/Update Ends.

Zynga claims that Patmore then uninstalled his DropBox account from his computer and, the next day, announced his resignation and didn't return to the company the following day.

But tech experts assessed his computer and had apparently found "a forensic trail of wrongful conduct".

All of Zynga's accusations have yet to be proven. Patmore has not commented publicly on the matter, though it is best assumed he disagrees with each claim against him.

Less than a single week after departing from Zynga, social games rival Kixeye announced that it had secured Patmore's services.

In a press release, dated August 23rd, Kixeye stated: "Patmore most recently served as the General Manager of CityVille at Zynga, and at Kixeye will be responsible for overseeing all aspects of product strategy and development".

Zynga claims that the information Patmore took with him includes the company's formula for analysing which social games will be successful, as well as internal assessments on the success and failures of previous games, along with a road map for future projects.

It also claims that Patmore acquired an "entire email inbox consisting of 14 months of communication".

The complaint filing stresses that Zynga has concerns that its ideas will be cloned by rival companies due to this alleged info breach.

"The data Patmore took from Zynga could be used to improve a competitor's internal understanding and know-how of core game mechanics and monetisation and core game mechanics," the company said.

Patmore's fourteen months of employment at Zynga came to an end during a disastrous period for the company, with its share price nose-diving and an extraordinarily high number of key staff departing.

Yet the company remains one of the most successful social games firms in the west, and says of its rival: "Kixeye has failed to achieve success in the online free-to-play gaming market because it lacks Zynga's know-how concerning how to develop sought-after games, and effectively monetise within those games on a mass scale".

In a statement sent to CVG, Kixeye claims it "has nothing to do with the lawsuit".

"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."