Kixeye Thinks Zynga is After Its Trade Secrets, Files Cross-Complaint Against Social Gaming's MinivanS

Look at that face. It's the face of Kixeye chairman and CEO Will Harbin. That is a face that means business. Now imagine it saying "Claiming that (Zynga's) failed business practices could inform ours further establishes their complete lack of understanding of the gaming business." And then he orders their execution.

Last month Zynga filed suit against former CityVille boss Alan Patmore, claiming he stole trade secrets when he left the company in August, suggesting he planned to share them with his new employer, War Commander developer Kixeye. A week after the suit was filed, Zynga extended it to include Kixeye, alleging the company planned on using its trade secrets to get ahead.

Today Kixeye fired back at the social gaming giant, filing a cross-complaint with the Superior Court of the State of California, alleging the Zynga suit exists to a) serve as a threat to any current employees thinking of jumping ship and b) take advantage of the legal process in order to gain access to Kixeye's "trade secrets".

That's just silly. Zynga attempting to gain access to another game developer's secrets, using them to enhance its portfolio? That's never happened, except for all of those times. FarmVille is a copy. PetVille is a copy. Mafia Wars is a copy. Dream Heights? Copy.

Okay, so I can see where Kixeye might be a little concerned.

The full cross-complaint, available below for your reading pleasure, speaks about Zynga's former cloning activity at great length. It raises interesting questions, such as why did Zynga wait more than a month to image Patmore's computer and then an additional 22 days before contacting him about the issue in the form of a lawsuit?

It also has some rather colorful turns of phrase, including this gem: "Comparing Kixeye Games to Zynga Games is like comparing a Ducati racing motorcycle to a minivan." Well-played, lawyer man.

The most interesting turn of phrase, however, comes from the mouth of Kixeye CEO Will Harbin himself, via a statement he provided Kotaku earlier today.

Today we filed a Cross-Complaint against Zynga in the Superior Court of California. We believe Zynga is manipulating the legal process and fabricating claims against KIXEYE to access OUR trade secrets. Their illustrious history of using their legal department to exploit and slander competitors that they can't otherwise out-perform is well documented. We will not stand for it. This matter was shameful enough when it was focused on bleeding one of their former employees. When they broadened this frivolous claim to include KIXEYE, they showed their hand. We will fight to our last breath to keep this predatory company from accessing our confidential information and best practices. We intend to defend ourselves from Zynga's legal bullying for as long as it takes to reveal the truth—that KIXEYE played no part in this. As we have stated previously, we have ZERO interest in Zynga's IP or "trade secrets." Our games are categorically different from theirs in almost every way. Claiming that their failed business practices could inform ours further establishes their complete lack of understanding of the gaming business.

Kixeye does admit that the information in Patmore's possession was potentially communicated to Kixeye employees on two occasions—once in reference to the salary of a Zynga employee applying for a position, and once in the form of a general planning document that was discarded after being deemed useless.

While Kixeye is seeking legal fees and restitution, it's primarily asking that Zynga stop messing with its recruitment process and cease threatening or initiating litigation against former employees in an attempt to dissuade current employees from seeking jobs with the competition.

See Zynga's original complaint here, and then read the cross-complaint below. Make some popcorn first.

Kixeye Cross-Complaint Against Zynga