Zynga Says Former Employee Admits to Taking Confidential Files

A judge has granted Zynga’s request to move forward in a lawsuit it filed against a former employee, who is believed to have stolen confidential documents before joining a rival social games maker.

Zynga filed the complaint in San Francisco’s Superior Court last week against Alan Patmore, who left Zynga this summer to join Kixeye. On Friday, the judge granted a temporary restraining order, barring Patmore from disclosing the data to anyone and from developing games based on Zynga’s trade secrets. In court today, Zynga asked the judge to address its other requests, including the right to begin discovery. Patmore did not appear in court today, but was represented by an attorney.

In a statement, Jay Monahan, Zynga’s Deputy General Counsel said: “Patmore does not dispute that he took 763 files from Zynga, which contained confidential game designs from teams around the company, and that he transferred those files to his computer at Kixeye where he’s currently the VP of Product.”

Patmore’s attorney did not return emails seeking comment.

Today, the judge granted Zynga’s request to conduct a three-hour deposition with Patmore. It also granted Zynga the right to work with forensic experts to search Patmore’s Kixeye computer and personal devices, including his iPhone, iPad and computer. The court also continued the restraining order from last week to prohibit Patmore from destroying or deleting any information he has already obtained. (See more information in the court document.)

Monahan added: “We are pleased with the judge’s decision and will continue to work to protect the ideas and assets of our employees.”

It will be the job of Zynga’s attorneys to find out how big a threat the situation is, given that Patmore did disclose that he took the information. If it was shared with anyone else at Kixeye, Zynga may have a much bigger mess on its hands and could end up also naming Kixeye as a defendant in the case.

In the original filing, Zynga claims Patmore took a wide variety of files that would help someone replicate its business, including revenue projections and monetization plans and documents for more than 10 unreleased games. Other documents detailed employee compensation and strategic road maps. Zynga also believes that Patmore tried to copy his entire email box, containing 14 months of confidential communications. “In short, Patmore copied virtually every email he received or sent while he was a GM at Zynga,” the complaint reads.

This weekend, a Kixeye spokesperson denied the company had anything to do with the lawsuit, but in a statement provided today by Kixeye’s CEO Will Harbin, the company did not reiterate that stance. Instead, Harbin spoke about Zynga’s well-documented problems:

“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. Given their financial situation it all feels pretty desperate. Our games have little in common with the ones that Zynga is known for. We make synchronous, combat strategy games. They make asynchronous cow clicking games. We have 2 of the top 7 highest grossing games on Facebook. Why on earth would we want to emulate a business that has seen a 75% decline in share price since their debut? According to their S1 their games average $.06 ARPDAU. Our games generate up to 20x that. You do the math.”

Here’s a copy of today’s orders:

Order Granting Ex Parte App.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work