Amazon Fights Google Over an Ex-Employee

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The largest technology companies are constantly competing for the best employees. They create state-of-the-art technology campuses meant to lure in top candidates, pay top dollar for their services, and hold on extremely tightly once they get an exceptional new worker. Many companies will force employees to sign non-compete terms as part of their contracts to prevent them from going to another company to produce a similar product. This is especially important to the technology industry, where companies work feverishly to outdo one another, and a single line of code can be worth millions. Now two major tech giants, Google and Amazon, are battling over the details of these non-competes and what they can actually demand from former employees.

Amazon is pursuing legal action against Zoltan Szabadi, an AWS strategic partnerships manager. Szabadi worked at Amazon managing cloud partners, but left this role and soon after took a position at Google working on their cloud product. Amazon thinks it was too soon — he left Amazon in April and was at Google in May. Because not enough time has passed, Amazon is hoping to prove Szabadi violated his non-compete with Amazon. 

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The AWS product Szabadi worked on at Amazon has a direct competitor at Google, the Cloud Platform. Amazon is claiming that Szabadi had access to confidential information, which Google will be able to use against them. However, Szabadi and Google are claiming the non-compete was not violated because "he and Google had agreed on certain limitations on his use of information and on his contracts with Amazon partners."

As part of his agreement with Google, Szabadi could not work on sales, marketing or business development on anything related to Amazon for six months. He also could not participate in poaching Amazon staff for those six months. Amazon believes those terms were not strong enough, and took the case to court to uphold the original non-compete. 

The case was filed in Washington, rather than Google's home state of California. In California, non-competes are not upheld, as that would be murder to the innovative technology industry. Amazon attempted to uphold a similar non-compete in 2012, when AWS global sales vice president Daniel Powers went to Google to become the director of their cloud platform. A court rejected this request. 

You can read the complete filing here:

Amazon v. Szabadi by Todd Bishop


This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.