Zynga Inc. has fired back at Electronic Arts Inc., calling EA's copyright infringement lawsuit against it "baseless" and filing a countersuit alleging that the video game giant for prevented its employees from leaving to work for Zynga.
“Today we responded to EA’s claims, which we believe have no merit," the San Francisco social gaming company said Friday in a statement. "We also filed a counterclaim which addresses actions by EA we believe to be anticompetitive and unlawful business practices, including legal threats and demands for no-hire agreements.”
Zynga's counterclaim escalates the battle between the two Bay Area gaming behemoths, both in court and in the hotly competitive market for mobile and social games.
Founded in 2007, Zynga had grown steadily through games on Facebook such as "FarmVille" and "CityVille."
EA sued Zynga in August, claiming that Zynga's latest game, "The Ville," ripped off EA's "The Sims Social," published months earlier. EA's lawsuit alleged that Zynga learned about EA's game designs by hiring key employees away from EA, which is based in Redwood City, 25 miles south of Zynga's headquarters.
Among those who left EA to work for Zynga were Jeff Karp, an EA executive vice president who became Zynga's chief marketing officer; Barry Cottle, who resigned as head of EA's mobile and social games business to become a Zynga executive vice president; and John Schappert, EA's former chief operating officer who took on the COO job at Zynga. Many of Zynga's top developers and project leaders also came from EA, including Steve Chiang, Brian Reynolds and Mark Skaggs.
Zynga's countersuit took issue with EA's argument and alleged that EA threatened to sue Zynga if it continued to recruit EA employees.
EA spokesman John Reseburg vehemently denied Zynga's claims, calling attention to a number of top executives who have quit Zynga in recent months, including Karp and Schappert.
"This is a predictable subterfuge aimed at diverting attention from Zynga’s persistent plagiarism of other artists and studios," Reseburg said in a statement. "Zynga would be better served trying to hold onto the shrinking number of employees they’ve got, rather than suing to acquire more."
Follow Alex Pham on Twitter.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times