Social network rivals in â??trade secretâ?? lawsuit

Social network rivals in â??trade secretâ?? lawsuit

By Rob Crossley

September 11th 2009 at 11:38AM

Zynga accuses Playdom of misappropriation of trade secrets

Two rival social game studios are at the centre of a lawsuit involving accusations of trade secret theft.
 
Californian developer Zynga has launched a number of accusations against nearby rival Playdom, arising from staff transfers between the two.

Zynga believes that as four employees left its studio to join Playdom, the workers took with them documented trade secrets on a USB stick, as well as email these documents via personal email accounts. Zynga believes these secrets have been revealed to Playdom staff.

Develop was unable to reach Playdom at the time of going to press, though the company has given no sign that it accepts these accusations.

According to the plaintiff, one Zynga ex-employee had transferred 70 files to a USB storage device two weeks before leaving to join Playdom.

Meanwhile, another defendant is thought to have mailing 22 proprietary documents to his personal email account.

Zynga revealed in its lawsuit that the studio has what it terms ‘The Zynga Playbook’ – essentially a development guide built by years of heavy research.

“The Zynga Playbook is literally the recipe book that contains Zynga’s ‘secret sauce,’ and its contents would be invaluable to a competitor like Playdom,” read the lawsuit filing, unearthed by TechCrunch.

“The Zynga Playbook constitutes a collection in one document of many of the most material non-public commercially valuable concepts, techniques, know-how and best practices for developing successful and distinctive social games,” it read.

“The Playbook is the result of years of testing, development, trial and error, analyzing customer behavior, game behavior, optimizing past successful techniques, and collective know-how that Zynga has spent millions of dollars and more than tens of thousands of man hours developing and devising, and which could only be compiled by developing and deploying successful games over a period of years to millions of them.

“In the hands of a competitor like Playdom, this document alone creates huge exposure to Zynga as it breaks down in detail and memorializes the company’s key and collective efforts to develop and fit games to the social networking platform in the most successful manner.

The most serious accusation against Playdom involves the company’s recruiter, Jennifer Farris, who allegedy contacted Martha Sapeta (one of the four ex-Zynga staff accused) and asked her to perform a “small assignment” as part of Playdom’s interview process.

“Playdom instructed Defendant Sapeta to ‘compare and contrast’ the precise Zynga games she was working on to corresponding competing Playdom games,” read the lawsuit.

“Sapeta was offered ‘bonus points’ if she could ‘propose a feature in [Playdom's competing] game that [she][thought] whould improve [user] growth’.”

The presiding judge has ordered a temporary restraining order against Playdom and the other defendants. The case continues.