Zynga hits Electronic Arts with counterclaim

By Andrew Yoon, Sep 17, 2012 7:15am PDT

A little over a month ago, publishing giant Electronic Arts sued social gaming giant Zynga over alleged copyright infringement. EA claims that Zynga had blatantly copied various elements of The Sims Social in The Ville, one of Zynga's recent releases.

Of course, Zynga denies those allegations, claiming they "have no merit." In a prepared statement to Shacknews, Reggie Davis, general counsel for Zynga, claims that EA is guilty of "anticompetitive and unlawful business practices," for which the company has filed a counterclaim.

At the heart of Zynga's argument against EA is that the "life simulation" genre is one that EA does not have exclusive license to. "No one, including EA, may lay claim to the exclusive right to develop and release games in that genre," Zynga's statement to the courts reads. The publisher notes that "EA did not invent the genre," pointing to Activision's Little Computer People, released in 1985. Zynga also points out that its own YoVille released in 2008, three years before The Sims Social. "In other words, it was Activision--not EA--that first developed the ideas found in The Sims Social, and it was Zynga--not EA--that first brought the concept to Facebook." Burn.

Zynga also points out that EA's references to other accusations of copycat behavior at Zynga are without merit. EA said that it was "standing up" to the social gaming giant with its lawsuit, but Zynga points out that "those 'accusations' and 'allegations' were [never] proven." Sorry, Nimblebit.

In addition to defending itself against EA's lawsuit, Zynga has also filed a counterclaim that alleges that Electronic Arts attempted to prohibit Zynga from any "future hiring of EA employees." Given the high-profile move of John Schappert to Zynga, the company alleges that EA attempted to reach a "no-hire agreement" between the two companies. The counterclaim claims that "absent such agreement, Mr. Riccitiello would direct a lawsuit to be filed against Zynga 'knowing there was no basis.'"

It will be up to litigators and the courts to figure out who's claims pan out. However, it's clear that by the time this legal battle is done, both companies will have mud on their faces.

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