E-commerce and tech behemoth, Amazon, has filed a lawsuit against the former vice president of marketing for its Amazon Web Services division, Brian Hall, alleging that his new role at Google Cloud violates the terms of his non-compete agreement. In its complaint, Amazon alleges that Hall’s employment with Google threatens to cause irreparable harm and risks exposing valuable competitive information to one of its biggest rivals. Amazon seeks both money damages and injunctive relief, requesting that the court enjoin Hall from working for Google for the remainder of the 18-month non-compete period set forth in the agreement.
This lawsuit is the latest in a series of lawsuits filed by Amazon to enforce non-compete clauses in employment contracts. In 2017, Amazon sued another former vice president who left Amazon Web Services to take a job with a Seattle-area software company but dropped the suit shortly after filing it. In 2019, Amazon filed a similar suit against a former Amazon Web Services sales executive after he too left the company to take a job with Google Cloud. A judge ultimately agreed to partially limit certain aspects of that employee’s role at Google but did strike down certain portions of the restrictive covenant as “unreasonable” and took Amazon to task for taking a one-size-fits-all approach to its non-compete agreement. This latest lawsuit comes after Washington state enacted a new law last year that severely restricted the use of non-compete agreements within the state. We previously wrote about that new law here.
Hall’s attorneys have already responded to the Amazon’s complaint by denying the allegations against him and arguing that the non-compete clause is “overbroad, unreasonable, and unenforceable,” and asking the court to find that his new role at Google “will not require him to use or disclose any Amazon confidential information.”
In his answer, Hall contends that prior to joining Amazon, Ariel Kelman, AWS’s VP of Worldwide Marketing, led Hall to believe that Amazon would not enforce the non-compete clause in Amazon’s “boilerplate” confidentiality agreement. According to Hall’s answer, Kelman told Hall that he believed the clause was unenforceable and that he had never seen Amazon attempt to enforce the clause against other former employees who left Amazon for similar jobs with other companies. Hall alleges that he relied on this when accepting the position at Amazon.
Hall’s answer further alleges that he informed Amazon of his plans to leave the company for Google and Amazon led him to believe that it had no objection with his taking the new role at Google, citing well-wishing emails from various executives that he alleges did not mention the covenant not to compete.
Shortly after filing the lawsuit, Amazon filed an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order seeking to block Hall from editing and summarizing keynote speeches and slides for the upcoming Google Cloud Next conference which takes place in July. According to Amazon’s motion, Hall knows and helped develop Amazon’s cloud product roadmap for 2020-21. This confidential information, Amazon argues, would be invaluable to shaping Google’s marketing messages about its competing cloud products. Hall responded by arguing that Google gave him the assignment not because of his intimate knowledge of Amazon cloud products but in an effort to keep him busy until after the July 31 hearing on Amazon’s pending motion for a preliminary injunction. The court ultimately sided with Amazon and issued the TRO barring Hall from working on the speeches and slides.
Whether you are a business owner who is considering asking workers to sign a non-compete or non-solicitation agreement or an employee being asked to sign such an agreement, it is always advisable to seek the assistance of an experienced restrictive covenant attorney. The Elmhurst and Oak Brook non-compete agreement attorneys at Lubin Austermuehle are among the best non-compete attorneys in the Chicagoland area with over thirty years of experience defending and prosecuting non-compete agreements and unpaid wages and a wide variety of other business dispute lawsuits in a range of industries. Lubin Austermuehle a firm of Chicago business dispute attorneys handles litigation over non-compete clauses for individuals and businesses of all sizes, including small or closely held businesses for whom competition from an ex-employee can be a serious threat.
Super Lawyers named Illinois commercial law trial attorney Peter Lubin a Super Lawyer and Illinois business dispute attorney Patrick Austermuehle a Rising Star in the Categories of Class Action, Business Litigation, and Consumer Rights Litigation. Lubin Austermuehle’s Illinois business trial lawyers have over thirty years of experience in litigating complex class action, copyright, noncompete agreement, trademark, defamation, and many different types of business and commercial disputes. Our Wheaton and Schaumburg business dispute and restrictive covenant lawyers, civil litigation lawyers, and copyright attorneys handle emergency business lawsuits involving copyrights, trademarks, injunctions, and TROS, covenant not to compete, franchise, distributor and dealer wrongful termination and trade secret lawsuits and many different kinds of business disputes involving shareholders, partnerships, closely-held businesses and employee breaches of fiduciary duty. We also assist Chicago, Cook, and DuPage County area businesses and business owners who are victims of fraud. You can contact us by calling (630) 333-0333. You can also contact us online here.