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Mafia Wars Dev Zynga Sues Playdom Over 'Misappropriation Of Trade Secrets'

Mafia Wars Facebook game developer Zynga has filed a suit against fellow online dev Playdom, claiming that Zynga's "secret sauce"-containing 'playbook' was taken to Playdom by a departing employee.

Kris Graft, Contributor

September 10, 2009

2 Min Read

Zynga, the social game developer behind Facebook games like Mafia Wars, has filed serious accusations against fellow online game maker Playdom. A judge granted a temporary restraining order against the defendants. Zynga specifically named Playdom, Inc. and four current Playdom employees, one of which allegedly took Zynga's "playbook" on his final day of employment. This playbook, Zynga's September 9 complaint claimed, contains the company's "secret sauce" that is key to the company's successes. The document took millions of dollars, thousands of man hours, and years to compile, Zynga claims. The complaint, originally found by TechCrunch, continued with more accusations: "Despite being repeatedly caught engaging in illegal competition against Zynga, Playdom remains undeterred." "As part of the illegal raiding, threatened misappropriation, and on information and belief, actual misappropriation, Playdom now openly resorted to recruiting Zynga employees in illicit fashions as other means to gain access to Zynga's ideas and concepts." Zynga alleged that a Playdom recruiter approached then-Zynga employee and defendant in the case to essentially perform recon for Playdom on Zynga titles. Zynga's filing produced a copy of the alleged email between the recruiter and the ex-Zynga employee that asked for comparisons between specific Zynga and Playdom games, also asking for specific in-game numbers like loot payouts and cost of virtual equipment. "Zynga is informed and believes, and thereupon alleges, that numerous then-current Zynga employees who interviewed with Playdom were asked and did complete the same 'small assignment,' the filing read. The complaint said one specific defendant misappropriated the "playbook," a Zynga game that "includes a trade secret algorithm," and other purported trade secrets before taking a job at Playdom. Other ex-employees who took jobs at Playdom are accused of taking other non-public documents. Aside from misappropriation of trade secrets, Zynga also accused the defendants of breach of contract, breach of the duty of loyalty, inducing breach of the duty of loyalty, tortious interference with contract, tortious interference with existing and prospective economic advantage, and unfair competition. Zynga's Mafia Wars is a big hit on social gaming sites Facebook and MySpace, which the company said attracts 4 million daily users. FarmVille, launched earlier this year, attracts 11 million users daily, the game maker said in August. A judge filed a temporary restraining order against Playdom and the other defendants, who are restricted from destroying the allegedly misappropriated files. This lawsuit follows an ongoing dispute filed in June brought forth by Zynga against Playdom. Zynga accused its rival of misleading advertising that allegedly tried to confuse players between Zynga's Mafia Wars and Playdom's Mobsters social games. Reps for Playdom and Zynga told Gamasutra that they do not comment on pending litigation.

About the Author(s)

Kris Graft


Kris Graft is publisher at Game Developer.

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