Zynga files counterclaim against EA, EA calls it 'predictable subterfuge'

Zynga officially responds to EA lawsuit, alleges antitrust violations
Zynga has officially responded to EA's recent lawsuit over its claims of a "clear violation" of copyright regarding The Ville. General Counsel for Zynga Reggie Davis issued the following statement:

"Today we responded to EA's claims which we believe have no merit. 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. We look forward to getting back to focusing all our efforts on delighting our players."

Reached for comment, EA spokesman John Reseburg told Joystiq, "This is a predictable subterfuge aimed at diverting attention from Zynga's persistent plagiarism of other artists and studios. Zynga would be better served trying to hold onto the shrinking number of employees they've got, rather than suing to acquire more."

EA's lawsuit claims that the "the infringement of The Sims Social was unmistakable to those of us at Maxis as well as to players and the industry at large." The legal response by Zynga denied those allegations and demanded a jury trial, questioning the ownership of exclusive rights by EA.

Zynga's answer and demand for a jury trial reads, "The two games at issue in EA's Complaint, Zynga's The Ville and EA's The Sims Social, belong to a longstanding and well-developed genre known as 'life simulation' games. No one, including EA, may lay claim to the exclusive right to develop and release games in that genre, or to employ the common modes of expression and functional elements that must of necessity be used in the genre and that have come to characterize it."

Zynga cited games in its own lineup in comparison to social games published by EA, namely Zynga's 2008 game YoVille. Zynga alleged that "The Ville continues the evolutionary development of Zynga's own lineage," starting with YoVille, which Zynga noted released three years prior to The Sims Social. Zynga's response continued to refuse that "The Sims was the first game of its kind."

Zynga compared its CityVille game with EA's SimCity Social game, noting that "EA's 'city' game showcases elements customary to the look, feel, and workings of big cities that characterize Zynga's game, released 18 months earlier. Crowded city blocks, tall buildings, and the need to hire staff to run the city are a few of the many elements shared by both games."
Zynga officially responds to EA lawsuit, alleges antitrust violations
Zynga alleged that "certain modes of expression are customary and necessary to express the genre, such as sitting on a couch watching TV, taking a shower, and going to sleep in a bed. Such modes of expression, known as 'scènes à faire,' are not protectable. Allowing one company to own them would thwart competition, innovation, and creativity."

"Employing scènes à faire and common functional elements is not copyright infringement; it is how a genre is expressed," Zynga's legal response continued.

"EA's inability to compete successfully in the modern market for social games playable on the internet and mobile platforms as distinct from the market for console games where EA was once prominent led to a departure of talent from EA to other, more dynamic game companies," Zynga's legal response noted, prior to referencing a May 2012 interview in which EA CEO John Riccitiello admitted that Zynga "lapped us three times."

"EA's lawsuit ultimately rests on the implausible assumption that Zynga would launch a 'copy' of a game that had failed months before Zynga released its own game. By the time Zynga launched The Ville, the user base for EA's The Sims Social had plummeted, and Zynga is informed and believes that EA already had relegated the game to its India Studio where EA games in decline are sent to be inexpensively maintained and ultimately discontinued."

Zynga's counterclaim asserted that "despite years of trying to compete, and spending more than a billion dollars on acquisitions, EA has not been able to successfully compete in the social gaming space and was losing talent, particularly to social gaming leader Zynga. Desperate to stem this exodus, EA undertook an anti-competitive and unlawful scheme to stop Zynga from hiring its employees and to restrain the mobility of EA employees in violation of the spirit of the antitrust laws and California public policy. EA sought, by threat of objectively and subjectively baseless sham litigation, what it could never lawfully obtain from Zynga – a no-hire agreement that would bar Zynga's hiring of EA employees."

This article was originally published on Joystiq.