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Microsoft wins first round in clash with Salesforce.com over former exec

Microsoft wins first round in clash with Salesforce.com over former exec

Claims Matt Miszewski violated confidentiality, non-compete agreements by joining CRM rival

Microsoft on Wednesday blocked a former manager from taking a new position as an executive with rival Salesforce.com, according to court documents.

In a complaint filed with a Washington State Superior Court, Microsoft claimed that Matt Miszewski, formerly a general manager of worldwide government with the company, violated his non-compete and confidentiality agreements when he accepted a job as a senior vice president with customer-relationship management (CRM) vendor Salesforce.com.

On Wednesday, the court issued a temporary restraining order that blocks Miszewski from working at Salesforce.com, engaging in any competitive activities or providing services to any of his customers while at Microsoft.

"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," said David Howard, a Microsoft deputy general counsel, in a statement. "This directly violates the confidentiality and non-competition agreements signed upon beginning work with our company."

Microsoft and Salesforce.com have become fierce rivals in the CRM and cloud computing. Last week, for instance, Microsoft announced special pricing for its Dynamics CRM Online service to current Salesforce.com customers willing to switch.

The firms have also tussled in court. Last summer the companies filed competing federal lawsuits alleging patent violations . They settled before the cases reached trial when each company agreed to extend patent coverage to the other.

In Wednesday's complaint, Microsoft argued that Miszewski had access to "confidential or proprietary business plans for its CRM and cloud computing solutions, plans that discussed explicitly and in detail Microsoft's strategy for competing with Salesforce.com and Microsoft's specific market strategy and intelligence regarding Salesforce.com."

By accepting the job at Salesforce.com, Microsoft said, Miszewski put the company's Dynamics CRM product line and its Azure cloud platform in vulnerable positions.

"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 solutions ... including current and future product development plans, product introductions and market strategies, as well as Microsoft's competitive positioning and strategy within the Public Sector marketplace," Microsoft's complaint stated.

According to Microsoft, Miszewski had signed confidentiality and non-compete agreements when he joined the company in 2007 that prevent him from working for a rival for one year after his departure.

Salesforce.com announced Miszewski's hiring on Jan. 18, less than three weeks after he quit Microsoft. Prior to working at Microsoft, Miszewski was the chief information officer for the state of Wisconsin.

Earlier this month Miszewski acknowledged on his personal blog that he had left Microsoft, but said he wasn't ready to reveal where he was headed.

Miszewski did not immediately reply to a request for comment on Microsoft's complaint and the ensuing injunction.

Courts have generally been hesitant to enforce non-compete agreements, and Microsoft has had mixed success when it's taken former employees to court. In 2005, for instance, a Washington Superior Court judge ruled that former Microsoft exec Kai-Fu Lee, who joined Google to found its China operations, could work for the search firm , but barred him from setting up facilities, hiring personnel or representing Google in public.

Microsoft and Google settled their five-month dispute in December 2005. Lee resigned from Google in the fall of 2009.

A Salesforce.com spokeswoman declined to comment on the injunction, citing company policy on pending litigation.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer , or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com .

Read more about it in government in Computerworld's IT in Government Topic Center.


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