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THQ Prevails Over Rival Ubisoft in Quebec Appeals Court Decision

Assassin’s Creed
Ubisoft

The U.S. games publisher is free to hire Patrice Désilets, a former star games developer at the French rival, after a lower court barred the high-profile move.

TORONTO - A Quebec appeals court has ruled U.S. games publisher THQ can hire a former star Ubisoft games developer to head up its new Canadian studio.

The Quebec Court of Appeal for the District of Montreal unanimously sided with the THQ Montreal studio and struck down a January 2011 provisional injunction secured by Ubisoft that barred the U.S studio from hiring Patrice Désilets, the former Assassin's Creed and Prince of Persia: Sands of Time creative director.

Generous digital tax credits lured THQ to open a new studio in Montreal in 2010, with 400 developer jobs to be created over five years.

The lower court held up a non-compete clause in Désilets’ Ubisoft contract to stop his jump to THQ from Ubisoft, a move that shook the Montreal video game industry in May 2010.

But the three-panel appeals court dismissed the lower court decision that found a breach of contract, and said THQ was free to solicit any Ubisoft employee as long as that search did not amount to unfair competition.

The Quebec appeals court ruled THQ’s solicitation of Ubisoft employees represented fair competition and the exercise of legitimate legal rights of commerce and trade.

That ruling is crucial for THQ because it is battling with rivals like Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Ubisoft and Edmonton-based BioWare, a division of Electronic Arts, to secure programmers, artists and designers to feed their video game pipeline coming out of Quebec.

“We are thrilled with the court’s decision in this matter because we believe strongly in an individual’s freedom to choose where they want to be employed,” Ed Kaufman, executive VP of business and legal affairs at THQ, said in a statement Friday.

“We believe the court of appeal’s decision will promote competition, alleviate people’s fears and encourage more talented people to join Patrice and our other creative employees at our state-of-the-art studio in Montreal,” he added.