Tricia Duryee and Mike Isaac

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Game On: Zynga Fires Back at EA With Rebuttal and Countersuit

Zynga responded to Electronic Arts’ copyright infringement claims on Friday with a defense of its version of a “life simulation” game and a counterclaim that alleges the game giant illegally interfered with its recruiting.

Zynga filed a pair of motions to rebut Electronic Arts’ claims in the original filing, arguing that The Ville on Facebook is not a carbon copy of EA’s The Sims Social. And in a third filing, it countersued, alleging that EA participated in unlawful actions, including anti-competitive business practices, when it came to recruiting employees.

“Today we responded to EA’s claims, which we believe have no merit,” said Reggie Davis, Zynga’s general counsel, in a statement. “We also filed a counterclaim which addresses actions by EA we believe to be anticompetitive and unlawful business practices, including legal threats and demands for no-hire agreements.”

The three documents, embedded below, provide a behind-the-scenes look at the companies’ intense competition.

Despite EA’s dominance in the industry, Zynga has easily remained the top social games company on Facebook and has recruited away many of EA’s top managers. At the same time, EA has spent billions of dollars trying to gain traction in the social space — with mixed results.

In the original suit, filed by EA in U.S. District Court in San Francisco in August, EA charged that Zynga’s The Ville is an “unmistakable copy” of EA’s The Sims Social. “When The Ville was introduced in June 2012, the infringement of The Sims Social was unmistakable to those of us at Maxis as well as to players and the industry at large,” said Lucy Bradshaw, general manager of EA’s Maxis label.

In Zynga’s response, it asks the court to strike several references in the lawsuit that it believes are not pertinent. Zynga also denies EA’s allegations, claiming that both The Ville and EA’s The Sims Social belong to “a longstanding and well-developed genre known as ‘life simulation’ games,” and “no one, including EA, may lay claim to the exclusive right to develop and release games in that genre.”

The counterclaim gets more juicy.

Zynga says that EA knows that none of the former EA executives named in its lawsuit transmitted any confidential information to Zynga “because EA itself was involved in, and approved of, the exhaustive measures undertaken to ensure that did not happen.” What’s more, Zynga claims that EA tried to restrict its employees from going to work at a competitor, which is against California law.

In the filing, Zynga writes: “Zynga was told by EA’s legal team that Mr. Riccitiello had instructed them to obtain a no-hire agreement from Zynga that prohibited Zynga’s future hiring of EA employees. Absent such agreement, Mr. Riccitiello would direct a lawsuit to be filed against Zynga ‘knowing there was no basis and even though he loses.'”

The lawsuit goes on to claim that Riccitiello made other similar statements.

EA spokesman John Reseburg responded quickly to the allegations in a written statement that mocked the tone of the lawsuit: “This is a predictable 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.”

Here are the filings:

Part 1 Zynga’s Motion to Strike

Part 2 Zynga’s Answer and Demand for Jury Trial

Part 3 Counterclaim _Public_

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