Ubisoft and EA Fight Over Non-Compete Clauses

Via Gamasutra, news of a squabble between EA and Ubisoft over the latter’s habit of asking employees to sign one-year non-competition agreements. Says EA: “In the spirit of creative freedom, economic emancipation and workers’ rights, EA has in fact accepted the application of an employee who had been working at Ubi Soft…”

A bit bizarre hearing the industry’s 800-pound gorilla complain about competitive practices. (Was EA acting “in the spirit of creative freedom” when it inked an exclusive agreement with the NFL, torpedoing any franchise that competes with Madden in the process?) Irony is alive and well.

Note to future Ubisoft employees: a non-competition clause (like most things in an employment offer) is negotiable. Ubisoft has the legal right to request that you temporarily restrict your future employment opportunties following termination of your relationship with Ubisoft… and you have the right to request a higher salary, bigger bonus, and/or a significant guaranteed severence package (etc) in exchange for sacrificing some of your precious liberty. Capitalism cuts both ways. ;)

20 Responses to Ubisoft and EA Fight Over Non-Compete Clauses

  1. Ubisoft also has the right to offer your job to someone who’ll happily take the noncompete clause, no-questions-asked.

  2. It all depends on the person. The more experience you have (and the more desirable you are, in general), the more leverage you possess in a negotiation. Companies aren’t generally in the habit of arbitrarily and/or instaneously “offering your job to someone else” just because you raised a valid concern during the negotiation phase.

  3. I should also note: I haven’t seen the exact wording of the clause employed by Ubi, but I’d be surprised if it was so global as to prevent *any* employment in the video game industry whatsoever. I don’t know anything about the laws in Canada, but in the US at least, something so restrictive generally doesn’t do well in court (although its chances go up as the time restriction decreases in length). The article mentioned that Ubisoft has already succeeded in court once, so either Canadian law is different, the clause is not so far-reaching, or I’m missing something. Anybody know?

  4. Hey Dave:

    Finally got to see your blog! Good stuff, though I know nothing about games…

    Non competes suck, becuase in most cases, the power is always with the 800 pound gorrilla rather than with the poor little employee who, unless as you pointed out, is very experienced and in a position to negotiate. I agree that many of these non competes, especially the really broad ones, are not enforceable. but who wants to take on a multibillion dollar corporation with 5000 bucks an hour lawyers to invalidate a contract? Especially since I don’t believe that the company hiring you is allowed to pay your legal fees…

    This issue touches close to home because our little company recently wanted to hire someone we really liked and could not because he was not willing to fight the non compete…

    Keep on keeping on…

    Bharat

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