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Category — Trade Secret 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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XFire Sues GameSpy Over Battlefield 2142′s Buddy Sync Feature

Categories: Copyright CasesTrade Secret Cases

Viacom-owned XFire has sued News Corp subsidiary IGN alleging the GameSpy Comrade "Buddy Sync" feature included with the hot title Battlefield 2142, infringes its copyrights. Comrade Buddy Sync accesses a user's friends lists from third party instant messaging programs (including XFire and AOL Instant Messenger) thereby allowing the gamer to see which friends are online and facilitating friend invites into games – a feature that is directly competitive with XFire's core functionality. District Court Judge Susan Illston denied Xfire's request for a preliminary injunction.

Dale's Comment: I haven't found the pleadings online. As I understand it the case alleges copyright infringement and misappropriation of trade secrets. Proving copyright infringement is difficult because a successful case requires a finding of significant copying of underlying source code – something that is highly unlikely to have occurred. Noting about how XFire works seems to be a trade secret. How XFire works is common knowledge in the industry. If it was a trade secret then how did GameSpy find out about it? Barring some kind of fiduciary or contractual duty to keep XFire's trade secrets secret, I don't know how XFire can make out a case on this basis. 

Sources: GameSpot | GameIndustry.biz

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Non-Disclosures & Non-Competes: To Sign Or Not To Sign?

Categories: Featured ArticlesIndustry ContractsNon-Compete CasesStartup Game Developer IssuesTrade Secret Cases

Gamasutra Feature: Marc Mencher advises video-game industry job seekers to carefully consider and read before signing an NDA or non-compete agreement upon taking that new job.

Source: Gamasutra

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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

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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

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Pernell Harris Sues EA over Features in Madden 06

Categories: Personality Rights CasesTrade Secret Cases

Harris claims that EA is in breach of an “implied in fact contract” and a confidentiality agreement by using his idea for the NFL Superstar mode in the game without compensation. The mode allows the gamer to take day-to-day control of an NFL player both on and off the field. He says the idea stems from a confidential pitch he made to EA in 2004.

Sources: Gamasutra.com  |  Next Generation  |  GameSpot  |  Reuters  |  ZDNet

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Activision Countersues Spark

Categories: Misc. Contract CasesPublisher/Developer CasesTrade Secret CasesUnfair Business Practice Casses

Activision countersues Spark Unlimited alleging fraud, breach of contract, trade secret misappropriation, trademark infringement, false designation of origin, and false advertising.

Sources: Gamespot | GameIndustry.biz | Next Generation

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Microsoft Sued for Halo 2 Metal Case Packaging

Categories: Product PackagingTrade Secret Cases

Danish Glud & Marstrand is suing Microsoft for breach of a nondisclosure agreement, according to reports in the European game press. In 2002, G&M offered its services to produce metal game cases for Microsoft, and the two signed NDAs and exchanged information. Apparently, their services include the use of some form of confidential manufacturing or design technology that they disclosed to Microsoft after signing an NDA. Microsoft chose to use a competitive firm, Viva, to produce the cases. G&M claim they would never have provided the confidential information to Microsoft if it knew Viva was also bidding for the business.

Dale’s Comment: In order to successfully sue for breach of an NDA, you need to establish that something confidential was disclosed to third parties contrary to the NDA in question. Using mettle casings for video game packaging is hardly a new or secret idea. I gather the full facts of the case have not been disclosed because based on these reports there is no case here.

Source: Gamespot | GameDaily | The Inquirer | TVG | GameIndustry.biz

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