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Category — Employment Law Cases

Activision Settles with Two Former Guitar Hero Executives

Categories: Controller CasesCopyright CasesEmployment Law CasesInjunctionsMisc. Contract CasesNon-Compete CasesSettlementsTrade Secret CasesTrademark CasesUnfair Business Practice Casses

In February, Activision launched a new lawsuit against The Ant Commandos (TAC), Reverb Communications and three former Red Octane executives/employees: former executive producer John Tam, brand manager [name removed on request] and hardware group member Jamie Yang. These former executives founded a new company with TAC – Loadstone Entertainment.

Activision has settled with John Tam and [name removed on request]. The two have consented to a permanent injunction restraining the two from:

  • distributing a demo created by TAM incorporating elements of Guitar Hero II;
  • using or disclosing any Activision trade secrets;
  • taking steps to develop drum, guitar or synthesizer-based games for the next year;
  • “working on” a guitar controller for the XBox 360 version of Guitar Hero II for six months after release; and
  • competing against an undisclosed list of peripheral devices for six months after Activision commercially releases them.

The two were also ordered to return all materials relating to Activision’s proprietary information.

As far as I’m aware, no settlement has thus far been reached with Jamie Yang, Reverb or TAC.

Dale’s Comment [written April 26, 2007]: On a personal note, I was one of the lucky one’s to pick up Guitar Hero II for the Xbox 360 on launch day. The local Best Buy had about 100 of them on the morning of the launch. As I understand it, they sold out within hours and, to the date of this writing (owing partially to extreme demand and problems with some versions of the initially released guitar peripheral), I still can’t find them for sale anywhere in Toronto. I would like to purchase a second guitar peripheral. I’m having a blast with this game. As one of the commentators in a recent Joystiq Podcast pointed out, my fingers ache and want to stop playing long before the rest of me does! :)

Sources: GameSpot | Gamasutra | GameIndustry.biz | 1Up.com | CVG | Kotaku

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Activision Sues Ant Commandos and Former Guitar Hero Executives

Categories: Controller CasesCopyright CasesEmployment Law CasesMisc. Contract CasesNon-Compete CasesTrade Secret CasesTrademark CasesUnfair Business Practice Casses

In a new Guitar Hero related dispute, Activision (Guitar Hero publisher RedOctane’s parent company), has filed a fresh lawsuit against guitar peripheral maker The Ant Commando (TAC), Red Octane’s PR firm Reverb Communications and three former Red Octane executives/employees: former executive producer John Tam, brand manager [name removed on request] and hardware group member Jamie Yang. The former executives founded a new company with TAC – Loadstone Entertainment.

The complaint alleges:

“copyright infringement, trademark infringement, misappropriating trade secrets and confidential information, breach of contract, interference with contractual relations, and more. “

GameSpot is reporting that Activision has already obtained a temporary restraining order against the defendants restraining them from:

  • distributing a demo created by TAM incorporating elements of Guitar Hero II;
  • using or disclosing any Activision trade secrets, including: music licensing contract terms, in-game advertising, sales figures, marketing plans, product designs, and possible future songs and artists to be featured;
  • developing a guitar controller for the XBox 360 version of Guitar Hero II for three months after release;
  • soliciting Activision employees, partners or Asia-based manufacturing partners; and
  • taking any steps to develop, market, manufacture, sell, or distribute any guitar or drum based video games.

As recently as December 27, 2006, Activision and Red Octane had settled a different dispute with TAC concerning the sale of unlicensed guitar peripherals. See here for details.

Sources: Gamasutra | GameSpot | Kotaku

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EA Canada Employee is Awarded Almost $150,000 in Human Rights Case

Categories: Employment Law Cases

Text of Decision
A woman, Janie Toivanen, who claimed she was unjustly fired from Electronic Arts Canada after suffering a breakdown was awarded close to $150,000 in a decision by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal. When presented with a doctor’s letter recommending an indefinite stress leave, EA responded with a letter of dismissal with a lump sum payment offer of $19,744 representing a five-month severance payment. Toivanen was awarded: (i) $69,230 US to cover the lost value of her stock options; (ii) $19,744 severance; (iii) $20,000 for injury to her dignity, feelings and self-respect; (iv) health care costs of $6,000; (v) legal expenses of $3,300; and (vi ) $1,000 in out-of-pocket expenses related to the matter. No word yet if EA will appeal.

Sources: Vancouver Sun

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GameStop Store Managers File Overtime Lawsuit

Categories: Employment Law Cases

Six GameStop managers have filed a collective-action suit against the company because they believe they should be eligible for overtime pay and were classified as exempt.
 
Sources: GameDaily.biz  |  Joystiq  |  War Cry

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Second Employee (Canulti) Unpaid Overtime Suit Brought Against Activision

Categories: Employment Law Cases

On May 2, 2006, a lawsuit, brought on behalf of , alleged that Activision unlawfully classifies its computer graphics employees as “exempt” from California’s laws requiring overtime pay. In a new lawsuit brought by former Activision employee Cathi Canulti, she alleges the same cause and wrongful termination when raising the issue with her superiors.

Sources: GameSpot

Activision (Canulti):

Activision (AE):

EA (Lender Hasty): EA programmers

EA (Tam Su):

EA (Kirschenbaum): EA animators, texture artists, and modelers

Sony:

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Massive Black Sues Ex-Employees for Pilfering Development Business, Fraud, Etc.

Categories: "Inside Baseball"Criminal ProsecutionsEmployment Law CasesMisc. Contract CasesNon-Compete CasesUnfair Business Practice Casses

Massive Black is suing its former employees James Xi Zhang and Jenny Chen for interference with contractual relations, fraud, unlawful access to computer network, trespass, breach of contract and interference with prospective business advantage. Massive, a game-art and design subcontractor for games such as Killzone 2, Helgate: Longdon and Battlefield 2142, alleges, among other things, that Zhang and Chen, while still employed by Massive Black, competitively bid on projects from Massive’s customer, without Massive’s knowledge, won the contract and used Massive’s resources (equipment and development personnel – while still on Massive’s payroll) to work on the pilfered projects. Massive also alleges that up to $150,000 was siphoned out of the company using inflated expense reporting.
 
Sources: 1Up.com  |  Discussed in the April 14, 2006 “1Up Yours” Podcast (Time Index 48:15-52:15)  |  Gamasutra

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Ubisoft Wins Non-Compete Order Against Tremblay/Vivendi L.A.

Categories: Canadian DevelopersEmployment Law CasesNon-Compete Cases

Former Ubisoft COO Martin Tremblay will have to wait until June 7, 2006 before joining Vivendi after a Quebec court extended a temporary injunction. Judge Helene Langlois dismissed Tremblay’s claims that he was constructively dismissed from Ubisoft.

Sources: Gamasutra | GameIndustry.biz | GameDaily.biz | Next Generation | Canada News Wire | Canoe Money(CP)

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Another Unpaid Overtime Lawsuit – This Time Against Activision

Categories: Employment Law Cases

Following the settlement of two recent class action suits brought against E.A. by its employees, ActiVision’s California-based computer graphics employees are now suing their employer alleging it too has failed to pay overtime compensation as required by California law. The complaint, brought on behalf of , alleges that Activision unlawfully classifies its computer graphics employees as “exempt” from California’s laws requiring overtime pay.

June 2008 Update: This case has subsequently settled.

Sources: Gamasutra | ars technica | Next Generation | 1Up.com | GameDaily.biz | GameIndustry.biz | Yahoo! News | PRNewsWire | Shapiro, Haber & Urmy (counsel for plaintiffs)

Activision (Canulti):

Activision (AE):

EA (Lender Hasty): EA programers

EA (Tam Su):

EA (Kirschenbaum): EA animators, texture artists, and modelers

Sony:

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Ubisoft Montreal Enjoins its Former President, Martin Tremblay, from Joining Vivendi L.A.

Categories: Canadian DevelopersEmployment Law CasesNon-Compete Cases

In seeking to enforce a non-compete clause against its former President and COO, Martin Tremblay, Ubisoft Montreal obtained a provisional injunction from the Quebec Superior Court enjoining Tremblay from becoming President of Vivendi Universal Games’ Worldwide Studios in LA.. The interim interlocutory injunction is valid until 5:00 PM on Tuesday May 9, when Ubisoft will be seeking a safeguard order. The Court has ordered Tremblay to:

“abstain and cease immediately, directly or indirectly, competing with applicant Ubisoft…” and “…cease immediately working, directly or indirectly, within the territories of Canada, the United States and Mexico, for his own behalf or on behalf of any third party, in any business which manufactures or commercializes video products that may compete with products sold, manufactured or developed by applicant Ubisoft”.


Dale’s Comment: It is particularly ironic that Tremblay was the driving force behind Ubisoft’s and EA Canada’s recent non-compete scuffles. For example, in this open letter, EA Canada’s General Manager, Alain Tascan, urges Tremblay to cease requiring that Ubisoft staff sign non-compete agreements as condition of employment. It appears Tremblay is caught by the same type of non-compete agreement that, until recently, he was vigorously enforcing against others.

Sources: Gamasutra | GameDaily.biz | Next Generation | GameSpot

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EA Settles Leander Hasty Class Action Labor Lawsuit – Tam Su Suit Still Pending

Categories: Employment Law Cases

Text of EA’s Leander Hasting Settlement Press Release
Text of Leander Hasty Class Action Complaint
In the case started by an upset spouse’s posting to a blog, EA’s Software engineers have won a $14.9 million settlement from Electronic Arts, in a settlement of the Leander Hasty class-action lawsuit over unpaid overtime. EA also agreed to pay the employer’s share of the payroll taxes. Some entry level programmers (fewer than 200) will be reclassified as hourly workers, making them eligible for overtime pay. They will be allowed a one time grant of restricted company stock, but will no longer receive stock options or bonuses. Major deadlines will be moved to Fridays instead of Mondays in order to encourage a normal five-day working week. The 34 page settlement sets aside a separate $30,000 award for Hasty, who filed the original suit, and $15,000 for John McDonald, who joined the suit later. The settlement must be approved by the Superior Court of San Mateo County, California before it becomes effective. The original Kirschenbaum lawsuit settled on October 5, 2005 when EA made a $15.6 million payout. The Tam Su case is still pending.

Sources: Gamasutra | L.A. Times | San Jose Mercury News | Washington Post (AP) | GameDaily.biz | ars technica | IGN | GameSpy | GameSpot | Next Generation | CNet | Punch Jump | Daily Tech | The Inquirer

Activision (Canulti):

Activision (Erimez):

EA (Lender Hasty): EA programmers

EA (Tam Su):

EA (Kirschenbaum): EA animators, texture artists, and modelers

Sony:

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“EA Spouse” Revealed to be Erin Hoffman

Categories: "Inside Baseball"Employment Law Cases

The “EA Spouse”, has been revealed to be Erin Hoffman, wife of programmer Leander Hasty. She shook up the video game industry in November, 2004, when she posted this anonymous letter as an “EA Spouse” on the Live Journal Blog. In it she detailed the harsh working conditions of EA Employees. The post led to three class-action lawsuits (two of which have settled) against Electronic Arts and other big video game companies.

Sources: San Jose Mercury News 1 | San Jose Mercury News 2 | 1Up.com

Activision (Canulti):

Activision (Erimez):

EA (Lender Hasty): EA programmers

EA (Tam Su):

EA (Kirschenbaum): EA animators, texture artists, and modelers

Sony:

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Yahoo! Gets Temporary Restraining Order As MForma CEO Speaks

Categories: Employment Law CasesInjunctionsTrade Secret Cases

A California judge filed a temporary restraining order prohibiting Mobile game firm MForma employees from using allegedly proprietary Yahoo! secrets.

Sources: Gamasutra | GameIndustry.biz | Gamespot | GameDaily.biz

Other Video Game Trade-Secret Posts
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MForma Sued By Yahoo! Over Trade Secrets

Categories: Employment Law CasesTrade Secret Cases

Mobile game and entertainment firm MForma has been sued by Internet giant Yahoo!, which alleges that seven former Yahoo! employees now working at MForma are using trade secrets developed at Yahoo! in their work at the mobile game creator, according to an Associated Press report.

Sources: Gamasutra | GameDaily.biz | Next Generation | GameSpot | ars technica | GameIndustry.biz | ECommerce Times | Computer Weekly | ZDNet Australia | SFGate.com | Silicon.com

Other Video Game Trade-Secret Posts
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Atari, Edmonsdon Settle Unfair Dismissal Claims

Categories: Employment Law CasesSettlements

The settlement follows a claim for unfair dismissal in the UK courts, and ended up in a significant payout of over $4 million, including $2 million in shares, to Edmondson.
Sources: Gamasutra  |  Gamespot

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Sony 3D Artist Fired for saying “Xbox 360 is better” than the PS3

Categories: Employment Law Cases

Last month, Josh posted an article in Downinfront.tv, commenting on PS3 development. He revealed that at the time of his writing there was no final hardware development kits and that SOE got one of only five PS3 development kits delivered in the U.S. But probably what irritated his bosses the most was Robinson’s comments on the superiority of the Xbox 360

Sources: PS3 Week | GameIndustry.biz | Xbox Circle | EuroGamer | Next-Gen.biz | GameDaily | Bit-Tech.net | Spong | Team Xbox

See Also: Text of PS3 Week Interview with Josh Robinson

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Electronic Arts, Ubisoft Clash in Canada On Ubi’s Standard Employment Agreement Non-Compete Clause

Categories: Canadian DevelopersEmployment Law CasesNon-Compete Cases

Text of Open Letter from EA to Ubisoft
A long-running conflict between the Montreal studios of major publishers Electronic Arts and Ubisoft over non-compete clauses for departing Ubisoft game development employees has again flared to life, following the hiring of an unnamed former Ubisoft employee to work at EA’s Montreal studio.

Sources: Gamasutra | Gamespot | Next Generation | GameDaily | GameIndustry.biz

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EA Faces a Third Employment-Related Class-Action Suit in Florida (Tam Su)

Categories: Employment Law CasesSexuality Cases

Text of Tam Su Class-Action Complaint Within a week of EA's settlement of the Kirschenbaum class-action suit, Tam Su's over-time law suit emerges. The original suit was filed in February 2005 Sources: GamePolitics.com | Edge Online Activision (Canulti):

Activision (Erimez):

EA (Lender Hasty): EA Programmers

EA (Tam Su):

EA (Kirschenbaum): EA animators, texture artists, and modelers

Sony:

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EA Settles Kirschenbaum Labor Dispute Lawsuit – Hasty Suit Still Pending

Categories: Employment Law CasesSettlements

EA to pay $15.6 million in settlement of claim that workers were improperly classified as exempt from overtime.

Sources: gameindustry.biz | EuroGamer | GameSpot | Next-Gen.biz | 1Up.com | GamaSutra | neoseeker

Activision (Canulti):

Activision (Erimez):

EA (Lender Hasty): EA Programmers

EA (Tam Su):

EA (Kirschenbaum): EA animators, texture artists, and modelers

Sony:

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id Software Sued by Founder Claiming Unfair Dismissal

Categories: Employment Law Cases

Adrian Carmack, one of the original founders of id Software, has filed a lawsuit against the company, claiming he has been unfairly dismissed. Carmack claims he was fired as an employee and director after he refused to sell his shares back to the company in the context of possible corporate buyouts.

Sources: 1Up.com  GamaSutra  |  GameIndustry.biz  |  GameSpot

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Electronic Arts To Institute Limited Overtime Policy

Categories: Employment Law CasesPolice Actions

A second Electronic Arts employee has filed a class-action lawsuit seeking overtime from the company, similar to suits filed against the company last year and against Vivendi Universal Games. The suit is also part of a general trend of Silicon Valley workers demanding proper recognition for overtime work.

Source: Gamasutra

Activision (Canulti):

Activision (Erimez):

EA (Lender Hasty): EA Programmers

EA (Tam Su):

EA (Kirschenbaum): EA animators, texture artists, and modelers

Sony:

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EA Hit By Second Employee (Leander Hasty) Lawsuit

Categories: Employment Law CasesPolice Actions

Text of Leander Hasty Class Action Complaint
A second Electronic Arts employee has filed a class-action lawsuit seeking overtime from the company, similar to suits filed against the company last year and against Vivendi Universal Games. The suit is also part of a general trend of Silicon Valley workers demanding proper recognition for overtime work.
Sources: Gamasutra | Gamespot | GameIndustry.biz

Activision (Canulti):

Activision (Erimez):

EA (Lender Hasty): EA Programmers

EA (Tam Su):

EA (Kirschenbaum): EA animators, texture artists, and modelers

Sony:

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Electronic Arts faces (Kirschenbaum) Overtime Lawsuit

Categories: Employment Law CasesPolice Actions

Text of Amended Kirschenbaum Class Action Complaint
Just as the ea-spouse Web log posting this week has triggered a hail of criticism about harsh work conditions in the game industry, game-publishing giant Electronic Arts is being sued for allegedly failing to pay overtime wages.

Sources: CNet News | Gamespot 1 | Gamespot 2 (analysis)

Activision (Canulti):

Activision (Erimez):

EA (Lender Hasty): EA Programmers

EA (Tam Su):

EA (Kirschenbaum): EA animators, texture artists, and modelers

Sony:

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