Microsoft Sues to Stop Former Exec from Joining Salesforce.com

 
 
By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2011-01-27
 
 
 

Microsoft and Salesforce.com find themselves locked in conflict again, after the software giant filed a lawsuit to stop a former executive from joining its cloud-services rival.

Salesforce.com had hired Matthew Miszewski-whose LinkedIn page states his former position as general manager of worldwide government at Microsoft-as senior vice president of the global public sector. That apparently did not sit well with Microsoft, which filed a Jan. 26 complaint for damages and injunctive relief with the Superior Court of the State of Washington for King County.

"In plain violation of his employment agreement with Microsoft, Miszewski has accepted employment with Microsoft's direct competitor Salesforce.com," reads the complaint, "in a position that targets precisely the same market segment-government and public sector customers-that was Miszewski's area of responsibility while employed at Microsoft."

Microsoft alleges that Miszewski signed a March 2007 employee agreement preventing him from disclosing confidential information "during his employment and at all times thereafter," and from working for any competitors for a year following his departure from the company.    

"Throughout his employment with Microsoft, Miszewski has access to some of Microsoft's most confidential, proprietary and trade secret information related to CRM and cloud computing solutions for Public Sector customers," the complaint continues. "As a result of his position, Miszewski was-and is-uniquely and intimately familiar with some of Microsoft's most confidential sales, marketing and production information for its CRM and cloud computing services for the Public Sector."    

Salesforce.com has not returned eWEEK's request for comment. However, Microsoft seemed willing to broadcast its fighting mood over Miszewski's new job.  

"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," David Howard, deputy general counsel at Microsoft, wrote in a widely circulated Jan. 27 statement. "This directly violates the confidentiality and noncompetition agreements signed upon beginning work with our company."

Microsoft's "all in" cloud strategy is colliding with Salesforce.com's enterprise-cloud initiatives with all the subtlety of two 18-wheelers plowing into each other on a highway. Over the course of 2010, the two companies locked legal horns on a number of fronts, including a set of tit-for-tat intellectual property lawsuits that concluded with Salesforce.com paying Microsoft.

Salesforce.com recently used its annual Dreamforce conference to unveil Database.com, a new standalone cloud database for IT pros creating applications; the company claims that developers for nearly any device and platform will be able to leverage Database.com's features, even for applications using Amazon EC2 and other non-Salesforce.com cloud platforms. Database.com heightens Salesforce.com's competition with Microsoft and its SQL Azure cloud-database service.   

Whichever company wins the majority of the enterprise's cloud-computing dollars stands to make billions over the next several years. In that context, a legal battle over a single executive is a tiny sideshow-but one that nonetheless highlights the two entities' growing animosity. 

 
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