Zynga has settled its year-old lawsuit with rival Playdom, though the terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Zynga sued Playdom for tortious interference with contract, tortious interference with existing and prospective economic advantage, and unfair competition. Zynga alleged that a Playdom recruiter asked former Zynga employees to produce private data on Zynga’s operations.
Four Playdom employees who formerly worked for Zynga were sued for misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of contract, breach of the duty of loyalty, and inducing breach of the duty of loyalty. Zynga alleged that one of the employees, Raymond Holmes, delivered Zynga design documents to their new bosses at Playdom.
Another employee, David Rohrl, Zynga’s former Director of Design, was accused of stealing an entire game idea and associated innovative game mechanics from Zynga and developing it under a different name at Playdom. Zynga said that Playdom co-founder Daniel Yue encouraged Rohrl to steal the game concept in a series of emails sent to Rohrl’s private Gmail account.
Zynga further alleged that Rohrl received a bonus from Playdom for the theft once he was hired. Other employees were accused of taking other non-public documents. Zynga obtained a restraining order to prevent Playdom from using any of the files, including one which Zynga called its secret “playbook” containing detailed game development and monetization strategies.
Social Gaming’s Mob Problem
Prior to the suit’s settlement Zynga asked a judge for damages, game royalties, and wages paid to employees who had allegedly taken the documents from Zynga. While the terms of the settlement haven’t been disclosed, Zynga issued a statement saying that it is “extremely pleased.” It’s not clear what role Playdom’s recent acquisition by Disney played in the settlement.
A judge did levy a fine and a deferred sentence against Raymond Holmes. He was also found in contempt for destroying evidence and singing false court certificates. The court also issued an injunction against the Playdom game in development that was alleged to be stolen from Rorhl. The game was ultimately never released.
Zynga has been involved in many other lawsuits, paying $10 million to Mob Wars creator David Maestri in a copyright infringement suit. Playdom’s similar Mobsters game was also involved in a different Playdom-Zynga suit. Mafia games are a social genre that’s spawned a lot of litigation in general.
Much of this has to do with mafia games helping to launch the social game boom in early 2009. Even now, Digital Chocolate is suing Zynga over the name “Mafia Wars,” which Digital Chocolate says it had trademarked for an iPhone game of its own before Zynga began using the trademark on Facebook.
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