It’s deja vu all over again. Amazon has filed a lawsuit against one of its former cloud-computing employees after he took a job with Google’s cloud, legal documents spotted by GeekWire’s Todd Bishop confirm.
Amazon alleges the employee’s new job violates his noncompete clause, which, in Amazon’s view, should have prevented the employee from working for a competitor for 18 months after leaving Amazon.
As Bishop points out, Amazon filed a similar legal action in 2012. That’s when it sued a former Amazon Web Services vice president, Daniel Powers, who also left for Google. A judge ruled that Powers was allowed to work for Google, though the court forbade him from approaching Amazon customers for nine months.
The employee in question this time is Zoltan Szabadi, who was leading Amazon’s Strategic Alliances Emerging Partners unit. He was responsible for finding partners that sell Amazon’s cloud and offer services for it.
In May, he moved to Google to do essentially the same job. Google and Szabadi agreed that Szabadi would not approach any of Amazon’s customers or strategic partners, nor help Google recruit any more Amazon employees, for six months.
This is a huge area of competition between the two companies. One reason Amazon is considered heads-and-tails above other cloud competitors is the number of apps and partnerships it has. Google is currently building its roster of partners to compete.
This case will be closely watched in the tech industry, Bishop points out, because noncompete clauses are generally not enforceable in California. That may be the reason Amazon filed the suit in Seattle.
Poaching of employees between the two tech hubs of Seattle (home to Microsoft, Amazon, and lots of others) and Silicon Valley is extremely common. If the courts find in favour of Amazon, this could throw a bucket of cold water on that.
Google declined to comment on the specific case. It does intend to fight Amazon over this, however, as its court filings show.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.