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Daniel Powers (via LinkedIn)

A federal judge in Seattle has largely rejected Amazon.com’s attempt to restrict the work of former Amazon Web Services global sales vice president, Daniel Powers, in his new job at Google.

U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones ruled yesterday that Daniel Powers “may not directly or indirectly assist in providing cloud computing services to any current, former, or prospective customer of Amazon about whom he learned confidential information while working at Amazon.”

That restriction will be in place until March 2013 under the preliminary injunction issued by the court.

However, the judge declined to enforce the more sweeping non-competition provisions of Powers’ employment agreement with Amazon. Among other things, Amazon had asked the court to prevent Powers from engaging in “any activity that directly or indirectly supports any aspect of Google’s cloud computing business that competes with Amazon’s cloud computing business” for 18 months after his departure.

Here’s what the judge had to say about that …

Amazon has failed to articulate how a worldwide ban on cloud computing competition is necessary to protect its business. Its ban on working with former customers serves to protect the goodwill it has built up with specific businesses. A general ban on Mr. Powers’ competing against Amazon for other cloud computing  customers is not a ban on unfair competition, it is a ban on competition generally.  Amazon cannot eliminate skilled employees from future competition by the simple expedient of hiring them. To rule otherwise would give Amazon far greater power than necessary to protect its legitimate business interest.

Amazon originally filed the suit in King County Superior Court, before it was transferred to federal court. Read the full ruling here: PDF, 21 pages.

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