EA And Ubisoft Employee Hiring Feud Reignites

Video Game Law Blog

February 02, 2006

EA's Montreal GM Alain Toscan has sent a letter to Ubisoft's GM Martin Tremblay condemning Ubisoft's practice of requiring employees to sign non-competition agreements, and has hired a former Ubisoft developer in defiance of the agreement preventing the developer from working for any Ubisoft competitor.  This turn of events revives an old dispute between the two studios in their bids to attract and retain top developer talent.  In 2003, EA and Ubisoft went to court in Montreal over EA's hiring of former Ubisoft employees.  Ubisoft had made former Splinter Cell developers, who had since been hired by EA, sign employment contracts containing non-compete clauses which prevented them from working for competitors for 12 months after their departure from Ubisoft, which EA argued was repressive. Ubisoft was successful in obtaining an interim injunction preventing the developers from working at EA until the 12 month non-competition clauses had expired.  EA wasn't impressed with the judgment and said it didn't decide the case on the issues, and appears, with recent developments, to be ready to go to court again to resolve the dispute once and for all.

EA argues that the non-competition agreements don't protect Ubisoft's business interests and are too restrictive on developers trying to make a living in the industry.  EA alleges that Ubisoft could protect its interests sufficiently by requiring employees to sign confidentiality undertakings and enforcing copyright protections on its games.

Coverage here and here.

To read Alain Toscan's letter to Martin Tremblay, click here.

For a Ubisoft employee's take on the non-competition agreements, click here.