Zynga suing Alan Patmore for alleged theft of trade secrets

By Mike Thompson Comment

Alan Patmore, who left Zynga in August, is being sued by his former employer. Zynga’s lawsuit alleges misappropriation of trade secrets and breach of contract.

Patmore joined Zynga in July 2011 and served as the company’s studio general manager; he left in August to become Kixeye’s new VP of Product. Zynga’s suit claims Patmore, on his last day at the company, took 760 documents from his office computer and backed them up online. These documents apparently offer insights into Zynga’s core game mechanics and monetization practices, which would allow a rival company like Kixeye to compete more effectively against Zynga. These documents Patmore allegedly took with him include unreleased game design documents, his entire email inbox, revenue projections and monetization plans.

On Friday, Zynga was granted a temporary restraining order, which prevented Patmore from using, discussing or copying the info in these documents. Likewise, Patmore is also prevented from engaging in any activity that has anything to do with developing online games that would use Zynga’s trade secrets, which will probably affect his new position at Kixeye.

Patmore’s defection to Kixeye was seen by many as a major coup for the hardcore social game studio, which has made no secret of its disdain for Zynga and even went so far as to bash the FarmVille developer in its latest recruitment ad. Kixeye itself is staying out of the lawsuit, but the company issued the following statement when we asked for a comment: “Kixeye has nothing to do with the suit. Unfortunately, this appears to be Zynga’s new employee retention strategy: Suing former employees to scare current employees into staying. They’ve clearly exhausted other options in their employee retention playbook.”

This isn’t the first time Zynga’s found itself engaged in a lawsuit like this. In 2009 the company claimed four former staffers had stolen trade secrets and were using them against Zynga at their new positions at Disney Playdom. The case was settled a year later for undisclosed terms, but Zynga told TechCrunch it was “extremely pleased” with the outcome.

We’ve reached out for a comment from Zynga and will update the story if we receive one.