Activision settles suit against ex-employees

Former RedOctane employees prohibited from developing instrument-based rhythm games for one year as part of agreement.

Earlier this year, Activision sued three former employees of its RedOctane brand who had worked on Guitar Hero and Guitar Hero II. The suit alleged that the three had left Activision to start their own studio and had improperly used their knowledge of the publisher's hit rhythm games to develop and shop around a demo for a competing game. The suit also names former RedOctane PR firm Reverb Communications and unauthorized Guitar Hero controller manufacturer The Ant Commandos.

Late last month, the publisher had settled its dispute with two of the former employees. As part of their settlement with Activision, Guitar Hero II executive producer John Tam and brand manager Corey Fong consented to a judge's issuing a permanent injunction against them. According to the injunction, Tam and Fong worked with Reverb and The Ant Commandos in forming a new studio, Lodestone Entertainment (initially known as Hourglass Interactive), "to compete with Activision using Activision's confidential and proprietary information" that the pair had access to while working for the publisher.

"Lodestone intended to target a confidential and proprietary Activision corporate opportunity for the Guitar Hero franchise involving a certain confidential third party that was known to Tam and Fong by virtue of their employment with Activision," the injunction states. "Tam, working with Fong, directed an Activision employee and Activision independent contractors to develop, at Activision's expense, a demo of Defendents' game..."

The demo incorporated elements of Guitar Hero and StepMania, a free dance game for the PC that supports dancepads and includes a step editor. The pair used it to solicit partners and funding for Lodestone Entertainment, the injunction states.

As part of the injunction, the pair is prohibited from distributing or using the demo in any capacity and acting on or disclosing any Activision trade secrets. They are also prevented from taking steps to develop drum-, guitar-, or synthesizer-based games for the next year, nor can they work on any Xbox 360 controllers for Guitar Hero II until six months after the game's release this week.

The injunction notes that the publisher has a confidential list of peripheral devices for which Tam and Fong are also unable to develop any sort of competition until six months after Activision commercially releases them. Finally, Tam and Fong were ordered to surrender to Activision all documents, files, or materials they might have relating to the publisher's proprietary information, Lodestone Interactive, or communications with Reverb and The Ant Commandos.

While Tam and Fong have resolved their dispute with Activision, no such settlement has been reached with former RedOctane hardware group member Jamie Yang, Reverb Communications, or The Ant Commandos.

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52 comments
_Sam_
_Sam_

it's probably best that it didn't go to court

zsc4
zsc4

Does it really matter :shock:

chargr67
chargr67

guitar hero is DEAD .. neversoft is gonna screw it up and activision is gonna whore it out. screw them, follow Harmonix (creaters of guitar hero and amplitude) and get "Rock Band".

Terry_Foxman
Terry_Foxman

I think theres a bit more to this story than is being told, for four employees to do this makes it look like they thought they were doing something okay. If they just wanted money they would have stayed in Activision now their unemployed. Im not saying what they did was right but the story sounds interestingly one sided

JBiker51
JBiker51

Yeah, that was a dirty move by those employees. They sold the rights to Activision, then tried to take the code elsewhere, to earn extra money. It's really a shame makers of such a fine product would stoop to this kind of level.

rokkuman09
rokkuman09

Ouch, but I can't say Activision is being evil or greedy. The employees were definitely doing something wrong. They knew it wouldn't be legal for them to use that and then get money off the game they were developing.

sameiamcramram
sameiamcramram

Ant Commandos is a really ligit name, based on that and that alone im dissapointed in activision. Bad activision bad.

GogetaX
GogetaX

Hey, it's all about about money so whatever. Activision is just trying to cover ass. What you gotta do is not get caught divulging trade secrets. =D.

Darm0k
Darm0k

This is not Activision being evil and greedy, its a company protecting the intellectual property that it obtained by purchasing the studio. Every company in the technology industry that wants to be successful operates under these principles. I work for a very large tech company and on my first day I signed a waiver saying all of my thoughts belong to them, and it is like this everywhere. Yes it sucks but everyone knows the rules when they get hired. Those programmers would have to be idiots to not know what they are getting into. .

theflyinfur
theflyinfur

I gotta agree with Calo1224 on this HYP3RD4SH it says it right there, they formed this studio specifically "to compete with Activision using Activision's confidential and proprietary information". That's illegal in a big way, and that fact that you can't do this is clearly written out in any big business. For example, if you quit a job with an airplane manufacturing plant, by law you can't work at a competitors plant for at least one year, and even after that if you reveal trade secrets from your old employer to your new one, you could still get arrested. Activision went easy on these guys.

Cal12
Cal12

HYP3RD4SH_666, did you even read what they did? They created a demo of a game using Acitivsion resources and money that they intended to sell on their own when they broke off from Activision. Activision is completely in the right here. Read the whole article next time before you spout off about a company being greedy.

mixhawkeye
mixhawkeye

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

HYP3RD4SH_666
HYP3RD4SH_666

What do you expect there a money hungry corporate company. You may make a game that can beat ours?!!? TIME TO SQUASH YOUR DREAMS!!!! I mean geez I know that at least two game companys started like this. They worked at a game company for a few years then started there own. "The pair used it to solicit partners" it's like there trying to make them out to be pedophiles or something. There a couple of guys who wanted to make there own games.

The_Weekend
The_Weekend

i fought the law and the law won ....

Pedro7_2000
Pedro7_2000

Ouch, but it seems like they were in the wrong.

barne1dr
barne1dr

While I understand the legal issues in place and that this is the 'proper' turn-out...it is entirely possible that these employees actually originated most of the content they were "stealing." Going into the game design industry myself I do find it to be a sore note that anything and everything you produce becomes the property of the company you work for. Your original thoughts, your original work....all no longer yours the moment you put pen to paper within their walls. In any event...these three didn't think things through to well - this is a pretty obvious offense.

Toadstool1969
Toadstool1969

[quote="CaptainSmirk"]John Tam used to work for Activision in the 90s, and was fired after he was caught stealing hardware from id Software's yearly QuakeCon. He's lucky they didn't file suit against him then.[/quote] Where did you get that information? Just curious what your source is.

Sanguis_Malus
Sanguis_Malus

Its Intellectual Property Law, it serves these fools right for trying to be shady !

CaptainSmirk
CaptainSmirk

Here's something all you people defending the developers probably don't know... John Tam used to work for Activision in the 90s, and was fired after he was caught stealing hardware from id Software's yearly QuakeCon. He's lucky they didn't file suit against him then. He got a chance to redeem his character when they purchased RedOctane (the Publisher of Guitar Hero, not the Developer), but then went and did this... Some people never change.

XwarzoneX
XwarzoneX

>executives and shareholders make loads off of the creativity of developers Nice try, but it's developers who make their games using the money of (eeevil!) executives and shareholders. Developers rarely invest much money into their games, and this minimal risk taking is rewarded accordingly - by not giving them much in the way of ownership.

gibsongirl
gibsongirl

executives and shareholders make loads off of the creativity of developers who are squeezed by huge workloads and intense deadlines. they work unbelievable hours under massive stress. and to show their gratitude, their employers lock their developers up with proprietary and no-compete contracts that prevent them from getting better or different jobs in the areas they specialize in. developers aren't corporate slaves.

ThePhilatron
ThePhilatron

They should be able to do whatever they want WITHIN THE LAW.

zinkeboy
zinkeboy

"Confidential knowledge of rhythm games? Please. Rhythm games have been hit the button/dance pad/guitar fret/drum when the colored circle passes the straight line since as far back as I can remember." Exactly, Guitar Hero is essentially DDR with a guitar. Come on, there is no hidden knowledge here.

Seven_Is_Darker
Seven_Is_Darker

Phinster-n-Phinster, ha really. Thats sure as hell what it seems like.

AL13NK1LL3R
AL13NK1LL3R

well maybe they should of never done it so leson is learned for those 2 people

Tokanite
Tokanite

Bull. THese guys should be able to do what they want with what they've spent a large part of their lives working on/with even if it means putting a little dent in the fat wallets of actionvision. Freakin corperations keeping the indipendant companies down in any way they can to save a couple dollars to wipe themselves with. Bull.

towelie123
towelie123

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

bgres077
bgres077

Tsk Tsk... just let us have our games!

killtheponies
killtheponies

Confidential knowledge of rhythm games? Please. Rhythm games have been hit the button/dance pad/guitar fret/drum when the colored circle passes the straight line since as far back as I can remember.

Dj_DeathCool
Dj_DeathCool

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

dn3datomiced
dn3datomiced

MADgravedigga Again i'm going with, WHO CARES!!!!!!! Some of us DO care about what happens in the industry ourselves, so stow it.

andrewlkt
andrewlkt

I'm not surprised. Most companies make their employees sign non-compete agreements that usually last a year after they leave the company.

BIGboss600
BIGboss600

this is just a case of a big man keeping the brotha/er down

blancobo
blancobo

Reading between the lines it seems there were a series of developers here which were not compensated well (that s what it seems) and decided to form their own studio to make the big bucks. This is one of the very weak spots in this business... I would like to know how did that settlement look like. This is very interesting news. Knowing that Activision is a 25+ year old company (since the days of Pitfall) in the Atari 2600.

wild_world_girl
wild_world_girl

BigB10123: Not being argumentative, but are you basing that on something other than games you like? Do you know how they are as an actual employer?

BigB10123
BigB10123

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

NYCraziestplaya
NYCraziestplaya

man thats just messed up. people these days are just downright selfish and inconsiderate

comthitnuong
comthitnuong

The punishment isn't as bad as I thought it would be but still...Their jobs were based on their knowledge of rhythm games and now that they can't make rhythm games for a year, they might as well call themselves unemployed.