According to the Quebecois newspaper Le Devoir, Ubisoft has won the current round in a legal battle that pits the publisher of the popular Splinter Cell game franchise against US-based powerhouse Electronic Arts.
The Quebec Court of Appeals upheld Ubisoft's temporary restraining order that sought to prevent four former Ubisoft employees hired by Electronic Arts Montreal from working while a larger case is litigated. That larger case accuses the four former Splinter Cell developers with violating non-compete clauses allegedly signed when they first took up employment at Ubisoft.
The non-compete clause prevents employees who leave the company from working for any other computer game concern. Specifically, the non-compete clause prevents former Ubisoft employees from working in the North American game industry for a period of one year after leaving the company.
Ubisoft Divertissements, the company's Canadian subsidiary, had sought an injunction to prevent Splinter Cell developers Steve Dupont, Hugo Dallaire, Marc Bouchard, and François Champagne-Pelland from actually working at Electronic Arts' Montreal office.
"We will actively fight any attempts at extracting our trade secrets," said Ubisoft Divertissements president Martin Tremblay in a feisty post-ruling statement. Ubisoft's American offices have issued no official word on the case. Electronic Arts told GameSpot today that the four would remain on the EA payroll during the months leading up to the court's decision on the legality of the non-compete clause. That case is expected to be decided later this year or in early 2004.
It's unclear whether, in the wake of the decision, the four former Ubi staffers might consider returning to work at Ubisoft. "It's going to be awkward if those guys who left are forced to come back," said a Ubisoft insider who has worked with the quartet. The source predicted an especially chilly atmosphere in Ubisoft's northern studios this coming winter should the four take up their former positions.