Codemasters Goes To Court Over Poached Staff

carocat

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May 25, 2006
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#1
Codemasters has accused rival racing game developer Playground Games of poaching key staff with access to trade secrets.

The UK publisher behind Dirt and F1 2010 says in a High Court writ that the employees in question had access to confidential information that gave Playground a 12 month head start in developing and marketing racing games.

The writ names 15 ex-employees, including Playground co-founder and former Codemasters chief executive Nicholas Wheelwright.

“Those employees constituted a ready-made top-rate racing games development team. Between them they had some 100 years of experience in creating, developing and producing first-class computer racing games,” it says (via the Daily Mail).

Codemasters argues that the situation has impacted the development of its own racing games, and it is seeking unspecified damages and/or an account of profits in relation to Playground's actions.
http://www.edge-online.com/news/codemasters-goes-to-court-over-poached-staff

Obviously only minimal details so far, so there's a lot of speculation in this.

This sets a very dangerous precedent and, based on the little info available so far, I hope that the courts will simply dismiss the case. If the courts were to see this as valid it could complicated anyone looking to switch jobs within the industry.

Discuss.
 

higgos22

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Feb 8, 2009
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#2
If they have done that it is extremely Unethical, but hopefully they are just stirring things up cus they think that has been happening and it is nothing too serious and doesnt lead to any big dramas
 

keefy

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Nov 18, 2007
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#4
Are they suposed to forget what they learned in their previous jobs?

[QUOTE="Kyaw, post: 0]'...100 years of experience...'

something doesnt add up right.[/quote]
Yes it does its like man hours, if 10 people work 10 hours a day for 7 days = 700 man hours.

All they did was add up each persons years experience in making video games.
 

carocat

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May 25, 2006
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#5
[QUOTE="Kyaw, post: 0]'...100 years of experience...'

something doesnt add up right.[/quote]
15 employees each with ~6.5years experience equals about a hundred years. I'd imagine some of them more senior than others.
 

skunkman88

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#6
I'd be inclined to take Codemasters' side only if these employees were under some kind of contract that stated they weren't allowed to use these "Trade secrets" if they changed employers. Otherwise, I can't see any tangible basis for the argument.
 

carocat

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#8
[QUOTE="skunkman88, post: 0]I'd be inclined to take Codemasters' side only if these employees were under some kind of contract that stated they weren't allowed to use these "Trade secrets" if they changed employers. Otherwise, I can't see any tangible basis for the argument.[/quote]
I would assume that they were covered by an NDA, of course. But no matter what you do you pick up skills through a job you work at and the way I understand this is that CM are suing, because of the skills they picked up. Skills = trade secrets.

So to look at it differently, say you work in an office job that teaches you the use of a proprietary data entry system and you were to switch to a job that uses a very similar system thus making you an expert at using it, would that also mean you used trade secrets?
 

[DT]

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May 1, 2008
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#9
If you've have never worked in the tech industry, you might be surprised about this. Many employers (usually larger companies, or companies with significant IP) require an employment contract that has pretty specific non-compete language (this is different from an NDA).

Yes, it can prevent you from seeking employment in a competitive business. It's not something that's sprung on the employee, it's part of the negotiation, and you can bet everyone offered a position at Codemasters +had+ to sign one as part of the terms of the job.

The enforcement of the contract is another thing. Depending on the exact nature of the services and/or products it might be judged too restrictive.

When I sold my 2nd company, I stayed on with the new merger for about a year then left. According to my contract, I was not allowed to enter to the tech sector in a services capacity for up to a year. Now since we offered a wide range of solutions - EAI, BI, Web Development, etc. - it would have been hard to enforce (I actually just took a year or so off regardless)

However, the fact that it's a game company producing the same product could get ugly. One of the specific practices an NCC is meant to discourage is the exact scenario.
 

carocat

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May 25, 2006
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#10
I have worked in various industry jobs and only one had a restrictive NDA restricting me for three months which wasn't a problem as it was between projects anyway.

The thing is though there are so many job changes these days, some more or less publicised [IW for example] that that can create a real mess. If this goes through and companies restrict their NDA's more, does that mean that devs will have to stay at their job for ever?
 

[DT]

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#11
You're kind of confusing an NDA with a non-compete. It's a given that trade secrets, methodology, business models, etc., won't be shared, and their contract likely rolls this up into NDA-like language.

The problem is it's tough to determine the "source of origination". That's where legal gets involved, and where I've even done some consulting work. Some NCs even include things you develop _outside_ of work (I've had hires that were required to document any "pre-existing invention").

This is about employees, going to work for a company that competes directly in the same space, which most probably violates an NC. Normally they have enough time to lapse, where any technology IP would likely be dated anyway.

Of course you don't have to stay at the same job, but you might have to let (per your own example) the NC lapse or take your chances or work in the same general space but avoid _direct_ competition (i.e., another game shop developing an RPG). You can also negotiate your NC up front, it's all your choice as a potential employee whether you're willing to possibly give up being able to leave one company and the next day go to work for a competitor (in exchange for a 6-digit salary).

I'm not just pulling this out of the ether, I've been in the industry 20+ years, and it's pretty much status quo.