Disney Foots the Bill for Playdom’s Talent Poaching

| Tuesday, December 14th, 2010 | No Comments »

Two computer gaming tycoons in California reached a settlement on a sensitive case, and they aren’t saying much about the details.

Zynga commenced a lawsuit against Playdom over a year ago, after losing several employees to them in a controversial manner.  According to techcrunch.com, Playdom’s list of offences includes, “misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of contract, breach of the duty of loyalty, tortious interference with contracts, tortious interference with existing and prospective economic advantage and unfair competition”.  These charges have resulted in a preliminary injunction, a temporary restraining order, and a jail sentence for a former Zynga employee, Raymond Holmes (though it was never served).  Holmes erased hard drives, signed false documents and amidst all of this, Playdom was acquired by Walt Disney Co.

With a hush on details regarding the settlement and the stolen data, gamers are wondering what kind of information was so important to Playdom and how large of a threat Disney might pose, with such a large pool of talent and ideas to draw from.

It’s easy to see why corporations protect against things like a portfolio manager absconding to a rival company with 200 million dollars in clientele.  What is not so clear is how companies can protect themselves against theft of intellectual property and technological trade secrets.

Silicon Valley is a hub for tech giants, and houses thousands of headquarters including Google, Yahoo, eBay, and Facebook.  Often, companies with highly valued, sensitive information will have employees sign non-competition agreements, hoping to stave off the inevitable “poaching” of talent by other companies. However, as mentioned in a prior entry, like Canadian courts, California is notoriously opposed to non-competition agreements.  With seemingly little control over it, Silicon Valley is ready and willing to engage in a technological survival of the fittest.  Zynga seems happy enough with the settlement from Disney, so perhaps it’s safe to presume that whatever secrets changed hands, it won’t thin them from the herd.

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