Activision claims EA and former IW execs schemed to 'inflict serious harm on the company'

Following last March's lawsuit filed by ousted Infinity Ward execs Jason West and Vince Zampella against former employer Activision, and Activision's countersuit filed the following month, Activision has filed a motion to amend its countersuit based on new evidence born of the discovery phase. What kind of evidence? Namely that "Electronic Arts conspired with two former senior Activision executives, West and Zampella (the "executives") to derail Activision's Call of Duty franchise, disrupt its Infinity Ward development studio, and inflict serious harm on the company."

As a result, the lawsuit now includes Electronic Arts as a cross-defendant and is asking for $400 million in "actual and punitive damages from EA and the former executives, including profits Activision would have made but for EA's interference, costs incurred in rebuilding the affected studio, and damages suffered as a result of delays and disruptions." Activision is also asking the court to allow it to "recapture compensation previously awarded to its faithless executives" and, even more notable, "to prevent Electronic Arts and the former executives from benefiting from their illegal conduct."

The 39-page document details the history of Infinity Ward, the Call of Duty franchise and the public termination of its two founders, West and Zampella. It seeks to prove that West and Zampella colluded with Electronic Arts, despite having more than two years on their employment contract. The suit reveals that, following a private meeting in August 2009 at EA CEO John Riccitiello's house in San Francisco -- coordinated by CAA agent and former Xbox face Seamus Blackley -- CAA enlisted the help of lawyer Harold Brown to evaluate their employment contracts. Brown was ostensibly chosen because he is a "former Activision board member and former legal counsel to Activision."

They were small-minded executives almost obsessed by jealousy of other developers and the thought that another Activision game or studio might share their spotlight. - Activision, in court document

After the meeting, Activision alleges that West and Zampella continued colluding with Electronic Arts, going so far as to "covertly copy certain materials." Quotes from an email between West and Zampella include comments like, "Dunno how to scan secretely" and "Probably better to just photocopy and fedex." But it's not just documents; the suit claims that "West and Zampella continued to possess Activision confidential information long after they left which makes it likely that West and/or Zampella have misused and/or will continue to misuse valuable Activision intellectual property and trade secrets, including computer code, now that they have left Activision."

The amendment also alleges that West and Zampella refused to cooperate with other studios at Activision; one scenario -- also reinforced by documents, in this case, some text messages -- saw Infinity Ward releasing a Modern Warfare 2 video on the same day as a World at War DLC video, with the intent to "crush and destroy" Treyarch's marketing efforts. When confronted, West said, "We released on the same day as you because we had no clue you were releasing anything. We are not happy about it." A series of text messages between West and an unnamed Infinity Ward employee reveals another story. The unnamed IW employee texted West, "treyarch released their mp dlc video." West responded, "Super nice? We release our video? Crush and destroy with our video." The unnamed employee replied, "We already did. And . . . we already did" to which West concluded, "Nice."

The suit offers the following explanation of West and Zampella's motivations: "Although West and Zampella preferred to portray themselves -- both to the public and within Activision -- as game developers often forced to battle with corporate 'suits,' the reality was and is much different. They were small-minded executives almost obsessed by jealousy of other developers and the thought that another Activision game or studio might share their spotlight."

In short, Activision's appeal to amend its original countersuit introduces an entirely new angle to the proceedings, that of Electronic Arts' alleged attempts to subvert the Call of Duty brand, to usurp the Infinity Ward executives, and to take advantage of confidential information provided by West and Zampella.

We've embedded the full document below, if you're looking for some good holiday reading. Wondering what all the redacted portions are about? Activision claims that it's "prevented from publicly revealing the evidence because Electronic Arts and the other entities have sought to conceal this information from the public by designating documents as 'Confidential,' 'Highly Confidential,' or even 'Confidential: Attorneys' Eyes Only' under a protective order, when these documents are not truly 'confidential,' but merely embarrassing and damaging to Electronic Arts and its co-conspirators."

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Activision First Amended Cross Complaint

This article was originally published on Joystiq.