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EA vs Ubisoft


Romier S
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Recently posted at Gamespot:

 

EA vs Ubisoft

 

Article snippet:

 

In a court case that has received significant press in Montreal, but little in the US, Ubisoft last month charged five former employees with violating non-compete agreements. The five recently accepted jobs with Electronic Arts' new Montreal studio.

 

The clause limits the ability for those who sign it to work in the North American game industry for a period of one year after leaving the company. Informed sources say that in the seven years Ubisoft has maintained a Montreal studio, it has not previously enforced the clause.

 

While Ubisoft confirms it is indeed seeking to enforce the non-compete clause through legal channels, it refused to elaborate on the litigation today. When contacted, Martin Carrier, Ubisoft Montreal's director of communications and public affairs, confirmed there was ongoing litigation between the companies but added, "Because it's in the courts, there is not a lot to say."

 

Electronic Arts, on the other hand, is adamant that the litigation--which is being brought against the five former employees, not Electronic Arts--will set an unfortunate precedent, preventing creative talent from seeking jobs of their choice, unfettered by what it says are restrictive, possibly illegal clauses in employment agreements.

 

 

 

Interesting stuff here and I'm really curious on what your opinions are here. I'd also be curious to know exactly how influential these men were to the development of Splinter Cell. Ubi seems dead set in not letting them go.

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This is something that is actually alot more common then what you might think.

 

I have no doubt this kind of developer swapping happens regularly in the industry etc... What's interesting to me however is not its commonality but how stringent Ubi seems to be on this. Which again calls into question how influential those 5 people were to Spinter Cell's and more's developement.

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I don't know about anyone else in their jobs, but if where I work, if you work full-time, you sign a contract where you cannot work with the competition within a year after leaving the company for whatever reason.

 

Thankfully me being in the IT/Internet industry we don't have those particular constraints ;) (thank goodness too as good jobs are becoming harder and harder to get in this field).

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Generally, non-competition clauses aren't worth the paper they're written on. For the games industry, "poaching" clauses are fairly normal - once you quit, you can't approach your ex-coworkers to work with you, though they are free to apply themselves, it's just down to them making the first contact. Most contracts still have non-compete, but they're pointless - they effectively prevent you from working in your chosen industryand I know there's been legal cases throwing them out. Of course there's been legal cases upholding them too.

 

In Europe, they're utterly ineffective as it's a "restriction of movement" which is illegal under EU law.

 

Poaching of teams is a fairly regular occurance in this industry, it just doesn't get much attention. Breakaway "mini teams" where a bunch of mates split off & form their own company, or get work with another publisher, are extremely common too.

 

I think the wrinkle in this case is how EA did it - they set up this brand spanking new office expecting to steal some staff from Ubisoft Montreal, and everyone knows it. Is it provable in a court of law though? ;)

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I think the wrinkle in this case is how EA did it - they set up this brand spanking new office expecting to steal some staff from Ubisoft Montreal, and everyone knows it. Is it provable in a court of law though?

 

Exactly. I'd really like to dig up the names of the 5 employees in question. No doubt they must have been some "prize" fighters so to speak. Curious what affect if any this may have on development of Splinter Cell 2 also. Of course this may just be Ubisoft reacting to the scenario you posted above Brian. More about the "how" than the "who".

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Well, the studio is headed by Alain Tascan, an ex-Ubisoft guy (he worked there for 7 years), though he was most recently employed by BAM, he didn't go straight to EA.

 

There was some fatbabies discussion last month that at least one of the Splinter Cell leads was going to the new EA studio.

 

I have to say, if Ubi win this case, it creates some nasty precedence in Canada. Glad it's not the US courts.

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Originally posted by FutureVoid@Sep 27 2003, 06:32 PM

Thankfully me being in the IT/Internet industry we don't have those particular constraints

Really? You might want to double check that, Romier. The job I just left does not allow me to work for a customer or competitor for a 2 year period. There are of course ways to get around this, but I did sign the paper.

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Really? You might want to double check that, Romier.

 

I took a look at all the confidentiality agreements and employee contracts since you asked Buck and as of know there is nothing preventing me from being employed with another internet company (which is my specific area of expertise). However the *ONLY* clause is I cannot work for another phone company (ie *direct* competitor) for at least a year after ending my employment. Kind of half half deal.

 

 

. The job I just left does not allow me to work for a customer or competitor for a 2 year period.

 

Thats cause you were a punk and got all lazy....THINK ABOUT THE SERVER FOR GODS SAKE! :lol:

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EA VP Jeff Brown's breathless defense aside, non-comp clauses can be and are enforced in the US when they are deemed reasonable.

 

There are many factors a court will consider (What is the geographic limitation? What is the time limitation? What does it mean in this industry? and so on).

 

The question here may turn on the whether the geographic area of North America is reasonable (not bloody likely, imho).

 

Apparently this was brought in Montreal, but the article doesn't specify controlling law. It could be US, it could be Canadian it could even be Bulgarian -- whatever the contract specifies.

 

-j

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Originally posted by FutureVoid@Sep 27 2003, 06:32 PM

Thankfully me being in the IT/Internet industry we don't have those particular constraints ;) (thank goodness too as good jobs are becoming harder and harder to get in this field).

I work in the same industry (but in a software development capacity) and I had to sign a non-compete. I never really paid enough attention to it to see who I'm not allowed to work for, though. :)

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I work in the same industry (but in a software development capacity) and I had to sign a non-compete

 

I think perhaps software development is the key there Adam. It may depend on the particular area of your work. As noted though I do have a non-compete clause but only in the sense of other telephone companies. (I work for a major US telephone company at the moment). Other internet companies however are free and open to me....

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I would think that the enforceability of these contracts have more to do with what the team or employees are working on.

 

I would imagine that in terms of software development, a lot of these guys have intimate knowledge of proprietary code/technique/or methods that could make their working for a competitor tantamount to industrial espionage.

 

Seems resonable to me to try and prevent that, although I don't work in that field, so I could be way off. :?

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Originally posted by Adjuster@Sep 29 2003, 01:45 PM

I would imagine that in terms of software development, a lot of these guys have intimate knowledge of proprietary code/technique/or methods that could make their working for a competitor tantamount to industrial espionage.

Although these concerns are better addressed in an Employee Invention and Secrecy Agreement -- not a noncomp clause in an employment contract.

 

-j

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