Microsoft is suing its erstwhile general manager Matt Miszewski, after he took a job with cloud computing rival Salesforce.com. The company has won a restraining order from a Washington state court, which temporarily halts Miszewski from working at Salesforce in his new position of senior vice president of global public sector …
Ahh that rings a bell.
This is a move that is quite common. Sort of an anti poaching law that stops you going to work for a competitor or supplier/ contract within a given period of leaving the previous company.
I have it in my agreement as well.
I used to have it too
and many former colleagues also had that clause. It's utterly unenforceable under English law so I wouldn't worry too much.
From the point of view of somebody who has gone through this
"This case involves an employee with knowledge of Microsoft’s sensitive customer and competitive information going to work for Salesforce.com, a direct competitor, in a job that is focused on the same solutions and customers,"
Yep. And a huge majority of cases where somebody is laid off or simply forced out of a company due to bad engineer/management relations (i.e., decides the grass is greener on the other side of the fence), this very same argument comes up. The (former) employee put several years of creative input into the former employer's line of products, then, being an expert in that particular line of product, is hired by a competing company.
Why should that person (who most likely has suffered severe mobbing, the wrath of managers who have no idea about what the person is actually doing besides the straight numbers and is not even interested in knowing) be kept from doing the same thing for the next company? It is not, usually, that the workslave shifting workplaces takes along intellectual property not thought up by him- or herself, but rather that the former employer would like to keep using those ideas, methods, in some cases patents (in which latter case there would not even be a problem at all!) exclusively. Which usually is ruled out in the employment contract. You can't buy a person's brain with a contract (well, not in Europe, the Commonwealth, the Francophonie or the US, far as I know.)
Back to the topic.
Any company that loses an employee who has such intimate knowledge of the business it is interested in that they would like to prevent this from happening, should do so by keeping on said employee at whatever cost it takes to do so.
If they can't be bothered to keep their cash cow happy, they at least should have the decency to let them go with dignity. Suing for IP after the fact is, in one word, ridiculous, and should be laughed out of court.
I, myself, at one point was put in a position where I had to negotiate with a former employer that had laid me off with extreme discourtesy. My new employer was in the same line of business. In the end, I won a settlement in my favour... though calculating the time and effort spent in getting there, I was pretty much shafted (had I been allowed to spend the time involved with gainful work instead of the ludicrous lawsuit, I would have made a few ten thousand quid more).
I need a crate of beer now.
Another reason not to work in the US
Foetunately, for those of us this side of the pond, that's an unreasonable term and cannot be enforced.
In any case, surely his contract was terminated when he left, or are they still paying him a salary?
I had it in my employment contracts for two separate jobs, and I was told that they are legally enforceable.
IANAL but I'm pretty sure that:
A UK court would strike out a clause that effectively prevented an employee from working. However, if the clause simply prevented the employee from working for a direct competitor on accounts that involve the same suppliers or customers for a reasonable period (six months or less) then it would be likely to uphold the clause. I.e. I can be employed by a competitor, but I'd have to work on different stuff for six months.
It would also be likely to uphold any clause that prevented a former employee from using company confidential information in their new post, so be careful if you take a copy of any documents or databases with you.
"File the suit in Washington rather than in California"
Well, it looks like - while the Hotel Washington offers lousy weather, in comparison to the Hotel California - it pursues a similar check-in/check-out policy.
Or (to maintain the 70s Rock theme): "Hey, you, get off of their cloud!"
Good auld California.
AFAIK (IANAL), how's that for a start.
The reason for this not being filed in California, is that the anti compete stipulations in am employment contract are in fact non binding. California is a work at will state, i.e. Either party can walk at anytime with out cause and work for whoever. If only their divorce laws were as forgiving :)
Neither jursidction nor venue available in Calif court (yet, at least)
"It's understood that MS decided to file the suit in Washington rather than in California, as restraining orders are harder to stick in courts in that part of the US."
@AC "The reason for this not being filed in California, is that the anti compete stipulations in am employment contract are in fact non binding. California is a work at will state, i.e. Either party can walk at anytime with out cause and work for whoever."
Both speculations above are likely unfounded:
--MS is a Washington corp. per complaint;
--contract entered into in WA (so Calif has no interest in enforcing it);
--former employee resides in WA per complaint (and therefore, MS via WA courts may obtain personal jurisdiction over him);
--contract per complaint (originally attached, but not included in PDF download) provided that both MS and employee agreed venue shall be in WA courts (federal or state courts).
MS would not be able to bring suit in CA (federal court at least, lacking federal subject matter jurisdiction for a private contract enforcement matter where diversity jurisdiction is defeated--federal court diversity action can't have both plaintiff and defendant as residents of the same state).
Come and work in the UK
UK courts have a more realistic view on the subject, as Oracle found out a few years back when two of their former employees jumped ship.
Other than jurisdication shopping, the only way to prevent this, is to look after the staff in such a way that they wouldn't want to leave. (but that would require real man management and leadership, and a corporate culture focussed on something other than next quarter's return. Something sadly lacking in most large western companies)
In ten years Microsoft is going to be a vastly reduced company and either split up into smaller parts that actually make money or (more probably) bought out by Google.
They are imploding at the moment trying to wrap their heads around new technology they are ill prepared to work with. They do not innovate, save after the fact and are well behind the curve save in marketing where they convince regular people that their software is great.
Only Office and Windows 7 are supporting MS today. All of their other products are revenue neutral or losing (lots of) money. The truly talented folks who used to work for MS have either retired, been forced out or moved onto other companies. The real reason to stop Mr. Miszewski from leaving is a warning shot across the bows of other MS employees considering a similar move.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, I suppose.
"They do not innovate, save after the fact and are well behind the curve..."
Probably true, but this has served them pretty well for over 20 years, what has changed?
It's called Anti-Competitiveness.
Microsoft know all about this!
"...Worldwide Government at Microsoft..."
So they really are trying to take over the whole world?
And admitting it?