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Zynga Fires Back At EA With Claims Of Innocence And Accusations Of Wrongdoing On EA’s Part

Originally Published on Techdirt.

We last left Zynga back in August with EA filing a lawsuit against the casual game company in which EA makes claims of copyright infringement. EA had accused Zynga of cloning its Sims Social game when Zynga made its game, The Ville. Well, Zynga has finally fired back with filings claiming innocence of copyright infringement as well as accusations that EA had attempted to establish a “no hire” agreement between the two companies.

In the first filing, Zynga moves to have a bunch of language from EA’s filings stricken as it feels that much of it is “redundant, immaterial, impertinent and/or scandalous.” It feels that a lot of the information presented, such as third party disputes, games and comments that do not pertain to EA’s specific claims of copyright infringement, are simply included to paint Zynga in as negative a light as possible.

Zynga also specifically rejects the idea that The Ville infringes The Sims Social by attempting to show that much of what EA claims to be infringing is either a natural part of a life sim or part of an evolution in design of other Zynga created games. This can be found in the second filing in which Zynga shows successive screen shots of its games YoVille, Cafe World and The Ville. Each with very similar UI elements.

Next, Zynga brings in a comparison of Zynga’s CityVille and EA’s SimCity Social games. It does so to highlight that even EA gives in to tropes and design choices common to the genre it works in. Coming off this, Zynga makes the claim that this lawsuit is nothing more than EA’s response to being unable to compete in the social gaming marketplace.

Finally, we have the third filing in which Zynga makes its most bold claim yet.

Zynga claims that EA CEO John Riccitiello wanted to establish an illegal “no-hire” agreement with Zynga that would prevent the company from hiring employees away from EA. The filing says Riccitiello had grown upset that many EA employees had moved over to Zynga, and had gone “on the war path” to put an end to the talent bleed.

The company also says EA filed its lawsuit in August not because it believes Zynga copied The Sims Social, but because the company wanted to discourage its employees from jumping ship.

If Zynga’s accusation is true, then EA’s attempt at establishing such an agreement is serious business. These types of agreements, in which the companies agree not to hire anyone that applies, if they work for the competing company, and will often report the employee to his/her boss, are generally very bad for workers and quite possibly illegal.

These agreements are so serious that the Department of Justice had been investigating a number of tech companies, including Apple and Google, for this practice back in 2010 with evidence finally surfacing earlier this year.

Of course, EA believes this claim by Zynga is just a smokescreen.

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.

Regardless of whether these claims are true or not, this shows just how far this legal dispute could go over the coming months. Here we have two powerhouse game companies fighting over something that really in the end will have no bearing on the future of the games industry.

In the end, what do we actually get out of dragging two companies’ reputations through the mud? What will either company get out of winning this lawsuit? If EA wins, it will get to claim that it slayed the big bad cloning monster and Zynga will slink away and only clone the games of much smaller companies. If Zynga wins, the games industry as it is now will continue forward exactly as it had been. Either way, nothing substantial will change. So again, what’s the point?

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