Kixeye Fires Back at Zynga, This Time in a Lawsuit

Kixeye’s CEO Will Harbin has had a few harsh things to say about rival Zynga.

Kixeye CEO Will Harbin

It likely started when Kixeye published a recruiting video that made fun of Zynga, while also trying to steal away its employees. However, the latest battle between the two San Francisco companies came after Zynga filed a lawsuit against Kixeye, alleging trade secret violations.

That really got Harbin going.

In a statement last month, Harbin said: “Zynga is burning to the ground and bleeding top talent and instead of trying to fix the problems — better work environment and better products — they are resorting to the only profit center that has ever really worked for them: their legal department. It is simply another case of Zynga vindictively persecuting a former employee as an individual.”

Today, Kixeye is following up those harsh words in a 19-page countersuit against Zynga, alleging that Zynga has violated California business codes.

“Today we filed a Cross-Complaint against Zynga in the Superior Court of California,” Harbin said, in a statement. “We believe Zynga is manipulating the legal process and fabricating claims against Kixeye to access OUR trade secrets. Their illustrious history of using their legal department to exploit and slander competitors that they can’t otherwise out-perform is well documented.”

A Zynga spokesperson did not immediately respond to emails.

First, some of the backstory:

Last month, Zynga filed a lawsuit against one of its former general managers, Alan Patmore, alleging “the wholesale theft of some of its most sensitive and commercially valuable data.” They accused Patmore of stealing hundreds of confidential documents before joining Kixeye as chief product officer.

In a hearing, Patmore admitted to taking the documents, and Zynga was awarded a temporary restraining order, prohibiting Patmore from disclosing the data to anyone at Kixeye. Last week, Zynga escalated the case when it named Kixeye as a defendant. Zynga alleges that Kixeye was aware that Patmore was in possession of this data, and on more than one occasion requested that he provide it to Kixeye. Zynga is seeking a restraining order, damages and attorney’s fees.

In Kixeye’s countersuit filed yesterday (see document below), it fully admits that Patmore shared some information with Kixeye employees.

“To the extent that Mr. Patmore had any Zynga trade secrets or proprietary information, that information has all been returned and/or secured. Moreover, Mr. Patmore has informed Zynga that, at most, he may have communicated information from two Zynga documents to other Kixeye employees — neither of which contained anything resembling a trade secret.” Kixeye said the first document Patmore shared with Kixeye’s VP of engineering had to do with the salary of a former Zynga employee, Niall Hayes, whom they were thinking of hiring. In the second instance, Patmore sent a Kixeye employee an email with a template he created in April 2012 called “game pitch.” Patmore wanted him to use that template for a project at Kixeye.

Kixeye is asking the court to prohibit Zynga from interfering in its right to recruit, among other things. It is also seeking attorney fees.

Here’s the full complaint:

Zynga Vs. Alan Patmore, Kixeye


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