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Ex-Grand Theft Auto game boss, 47, accused of poaching his former colleagues

BAFTA award-winning video game boss, 47, who worked on the Grand Theft Auto series is accused of poaching his former colleagues to start a rival business

  • Leslie Benzies is the former president of Edinburgh games firm Rockstar North 
  • The developer, from Aberdeen, left in 2016 and set up Build a Rocket Boy Games 
  • But Rockstar’s parent company has taken him to court over alleged poaching
  • He is accused of wilfully infringing intellectual property and soliciting its staff 

Leslie Benzies (pictured) has been taken to court over alleged poaching of Take Two’s staff

A video game pioneer who worked on the landmark Grand Theft Auto series has been taken to court accused of poaching former colleagues to start a rival business.

Leslie Benzies was the former president of Rockstar North, the Edinburgh developer responsible for the best-selling Grand Theft Auto (GTA) series.

The 47-year-old BAFTA award-winning developer, who was born in Aberdeen, took the lead on the GTA series but now faces legal action from his former employers, which he left in 2016.

The parent company of Rockstar North, Take Two Interactive Software Inc, issued a pre-emptive legal warning to Mr Benzies’ new firm.

It accused Mr Benzies, who set up his own studio at the old Leith Corn Exchange in 2017, of wilfully infringing its intellectual property and soliciting its staff.

Mr Benzies hired former colleagues for the studio, initially named Royal Circus Games, which has since been renamed Build a Rocket Boy Games.

The company is currently producing its first game, Everywhere, described as an experience which will ‘blur the lines between reality and a simulated world’. But lawyers from Take Two, based in New York, have taken issue with the start-up.

In the letter filed with New York Supreme Court, Dale Cendali, an intellectual property lawyer at legal outfit, Kirkland & Ellis, accused Royal Circus Games of having ‘attempted to solicit Rockstar Games’ (RSG) employees’.

She stated: ‘It appears that Royal Circus Games may have targeted these employees based on knowledge of confidential personnel and business practices only available to it because of the former RSG employees’ prior employment at RSG.’

The developer set up his own firm after working on the Grand Theft Auto series with Rockstar North (pictured, a still from the game series)

The developer set up his own firm after working on the Grand Theft Auto series with Rockstar North (pictured, a still from the game series)

Ms Cendali suggested Mr Benzies and his colleagues had tried to deliberately hoodwink consumers into believing their new firm was affiliated with the video game giant.

The letter was addressed to Christian Poziemski, who until August was a director of Royal Circus Games.

Ms Cendali added: ‘The choice of the Royal Circus Games trademark – which shortens to RCG and will presumably use an R design logo – is clearly intended to cause confusion with the RSG trademarks and mislead consumers into believing that there is an affiliation, connection or association between RCG and RSG.’

But a lawyer on behalf of Mr Benzies, Christopher Bakes of the law firm Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, dismissed the allegations.

Mr Bakes wrote a response saying: ‘Do you have a particular basis on which to make this extreme charge?

‘Do you presume that all new tech and entertainment hires are just ruses to get confidential information belonging to others?’

He added: ‘Please let me also remind you that your clients’ companies are not feudal estates where worker movements can be controlled and harassed. Each employee was free to seek other employment and they did so.’

Mr Benzies has been embroiled in a row over unpaid royalties with his former employers since 2016, claiming he was owed more than $150 million. The court case between Mr Benzies and Take Two is ongoing.

 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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