Court blocks THQ from snatching more Ubisoft devs

Court blocks THQ from snatching more Ubisoft devs

By Rob Crossley

March 31st 2011 at 10:26AM

Legal twists, and bitter accusations, in the battle of the Montreal studio giants

THQ has been issued an injunction preventing it from illicitly pulling talent away from a Ubisoft studio in Canada.

It has been discovered that Patrice Désilets, a new THQ employee, had helped target developers working at Ubisoft Montreal who could be convinced to switch companies.

Last year, Désilets left Ubisoft Montreal for THQ Montreal, in a move that kept his former employer in the dark.

Ubisoft at the time publicly stated that Désilets had left the company to go on a creative break. He nevertheless left the firm with a non-compete clause in place, meaning interfering with Ubisoft matters was prohibited.

And yet Danny Bilson, a key THQ executive, revealed recently that Désilets had played a central role in hiring three more people away from Ubisoft Montreal.

In January, Bilson told games site Joystiq: "I don't think I can talk about the other three people we've already contracted because I wouldn't … I just know Patrice said, 'I need these three guys.' And I said 'Okay, whatever you need.’

"We put all of them on retention and got them started on their non-compete [clauses]. I kind of know what their roles are, but they were the most important people to Patrice. All three of them are [Ubisoft employees]."

Recently, Assassin's Creed artistic director Alex Drouin, production manager Mark Besner, and associate producer Jean-Francois Boivin all unexpectedly resigned from Ubisoft Montreal.

The move, along with Désilets’ own departure, raised suspicions at Ubisoft.

Now a news report in Montreal regional newspaper Rue Frontenac has claimed Drouin, Besner and Boivin are the three developers joining THQ.

Désilets was thus found to be in breach of contract for helping hire the trio, the Superior Court of Québec had ruled.

He is prevented from helping THQ in further employment-related decisions until his non-compete clause terminates, in May.

Contract kleptomania

The injunction had not prevented THQ from trying to pilfer more talent from Ubisoft, however.

The injunction was extended to more THQ and Ubisoft staff, after it was discovered that – one month after the first injunction - another Ubisoft employee, Margherita Seconnino, had been approached to switch sides.

Former employee Adolfo Gomez-Urda asked Seconnino to meet with the THQ localization department, offering a salary raise upwards of 60 percent, according to reports.

A Ubisoft statement, sent to Game Informer, read:

“Ubisoft has filed a request before the Superior Court of Québec for injunction orders against THQ Inc. in order to have them comply with the non-solicit clause included in Ubisoft Montreal’s employee work contracts.

“The Superior Court of Québec has granted the injunctions to the satisfaction of Ubisoft. This procedure aims to protect Ubisoft Montreal in a breach of contract situation, and to defend the long-term financial and creative health of the studio.”