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Matthew Miszewski

A judge in Seattle today denied a former Microsoft general manager’s new attempt to carve out a role for himself at Salesforce.com, saying the revised job proposal would still run afoul of his non-compete agreement with the Redmond company, even if it didn’t precisely match his former Microsoft role.

The preliminary injunction entered by King County Superior Court Judge Kimberley Prochnau includes a provision enjoining the former Microsoft GM, Matthew Miszewski, from “working in a marketing role in salesforce.com’s public or commercial sector anywhere in the world.”

Despite the restrictions, Judge Prochnau said from the bench that she still could envision Miszewski finding a job at Salesforce.com that doesn’t violate his Microsoft agreement.

“He was a major evangelist for Microsoft — he was not a low-level salesperson,” she said, adding later that the “thrust of the order is to preclude him from being the evangelist for Salesforce.com that he was for Microsoft.”

The case highlights the rising rivalry between Microsoft and Salesforce.com in cloud computing, and a thorny conflict between California and Washington employment law.

Miszewski, who was hired as senior vice pres­i­dent for Salesforce.com’s global public-sector business in January, was sued by Microsoft shortly thereafter. In response, he had originally proposed a compromise that would have involved working for Salesforce in the public sector but only in the U.S., to avoid conflicting with his previous role in Microsoft’s international government business. The judge rejected that proposal in February, saying it would still violate his Microsoft agreement.

Under the latest proposal, outlined in court today, Miszewski would have worked only in Salesforce.com’s private sector business in Washington, Oregon and Canada, while promising to work with or contact no more than 20 potential customers.

But the judge today sided with Microsoft, rejecting that proposal, as well.

“I am precluding him from working in the commercial sector to market cloud computing products,” Judge Prochnau said, finding that the role would still run afoul of the non-compete agreement.

However, the judge said she still sees a way for Miszewski to carve out a position for himself at Salesforce.com, not directly involved in marketing or customer outreach, for the eight months remaining under his non-compete agreement with Microsoft. In response to questions from attorneys, she said allowable internal roles could potentially include training other employees.

It’s the latest case to spotlight Microsoft’s standard non-compete agreement, which prevents employees from working in competing positions for as much as a year after they leave. Such agreements have repeatedly been found invalid in California, where Salesforce.com is based. However, they are generally allowed in Washington state if the terms are deemed reasonable.

Miszewski and his lawyer, William Cronin, declined to comment in the courtroom afterward. Miszewski sat silently at his attorney’s table during oral arguments and as the judge ruled.

David Howard, a Microsoft corporate vice president and deputy general counsel, said in a statement that the company is pleased with the ruling.

“The Judge has effectively concluded this inquiry by ruling in Microsoft’s favor,” the statement said.  “Mr. Miszewski is enjoined from working in a role at Salesforce that would violate the employment agreement he signed with us.  As we said at the first hearing in February, this is about safeguarding sensitive and confidential business information and upholding employment agreements designed to protect that information.  Today the court entered an order that again affirms the importance of both.”

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