Zynga Accuses Former Manager of Cityville of Stealing Secret Files

Wednesday, October 17, 2012, by Jonathan Ambrose

The online gaming company Zynga has filed a suit against a former employee for trade secret misappropriation.   In a complaint filed October 12, the company accuses Patmore, who was the general manager of the game Cityville, of stealing secret files before leaving to work for rival game company Kixeye.

According to Zynga, Patmore left a “forensic trail” of evidence implicating his theft.  The complaint describes in detail Patmore’s creation of a folder of secret data (conveniently titled “Zynga”) and uploading it to a personal cloud storage account. It seems that Zynga keeps a pretty close eye on its employees.

The data that was allegedly stolen contained a variety of information, including files about Zynga’s monetization strategies, new game concepts, and Zynga’s strategies for choosing successful games.  Zynga claims that this information would be very valuable for their less successful competitor Kixeye, where Patmore is currently working. 

“Unfortunately,” said a Kixeye spokesperson, “this appears to be Zynga’s new employee retention strategy: Suing former employees to scare current employees into staying.” 

Patmore is also accused of breach of contract. He signed a document vowing to keep secret any proprietary information that was shared with him in his capacity as an employee. Patmore was asked to sign a similar document upon his resignation confirming that he did not take any proprietary evidence, but refused.

According to Zynga’s general counsel, Patmore does not dispute that he took the 763 files that contained the allegedly confidential data.

 On Friday, Zynga was granted a temporary restraining order.  Patmore is not allowed to use, discuss or copy the info in the documents, nor to engage in activity that would involve using those trade secrets contained in the documents.

Zynga was involved in a similar law suit in 2009, when they accused Playdom, a Disney company, of misappropriating secret files taken by former employees.

Zynga has not implicated Kixeye in their current suit, but seem to be focusing on Patmore, the former employee.  This has led to speculation that the suit is meant as a warning to current employees against copying secret data. “Unfortunately,” said a Kixeye spokesperson, “this appears to be Zynga’s new employee retention strategy: Suing former employees to scare current employees into staying.”