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Zoltan Szabadi
Zoltan Szabadi

Google is seeking to formally intervene in a lawsuit filed by Amazon against a former Amazon Web Services employee who left the Seattle company and took a job with Google’s cloud computing division.

The move by Google is revealed in a new filing in King County Superior Court in Seattle. By intervening in the case, Google says it wants to limit what it describes as an attempt by Amazon to use the legal discovery process to obtain “highly confidential information pertaining to Google’s cloud computing business.”

Amazon, in turn, says its own confidential information is at risk as a result of Google hiring the former Amazon Web Services strategic partnerships manager, Zoltan Szabadi, for a job with Google Cloud Platform. Amazon’s suit was filed against Szabadi in June, seeking to enforce the terms of his standard non-compete agreement with Amazon.

The suit underscores the growing rivalry between Amazon and Google in the expanding market for cloud computing services. Amazon is seeking to prevent Szabadi from selling or marketing cloud computing services at Google for 18 months, under terms of the non-compete provision.

The dispute is shaping up as a new test of the standard employment agreements that Amazon and some other large tech companies require employees to sign when they’re hired, restricting their activities if they leave.

The case, filed in King County Superior Court in Seattle, highlights a disconnect between California and Washington state law. Non-compete agreements have been repeatedly found invalid in California, where Google is headquartered, and have generally been upheld in Washington state courts.

Google filed its motion to intervene late last week, asking the court for standing in the case. Google’s filing says that “substantial confidential and proprietary information of Google has been requested by Amazon in this action, whether through Szabadi or Google directly, and, absent the ability to participate in the action as an intervenor, Google will have little control or oversight with respect to Amazon’s use or disclosure of its confidential information.”

Amazon said in an earlier filing, “It is not Amazon’s intent to discover any ‘trade secret’ of Google.”

Amazon’s filing added, “Amazon’s contention is that its confidential information and trade secrets are at risk, that Amazon has no way to protect its interests while Szabadi is working for Google under the stated belief that he has no obligations to Amazon, and that Szabadi should be required to honor his promise not to work for a direct competitor when he knows and has analyzed (and in some instances formulated) Amazon’s strategies, strengths and weaknesses, and data on its cloud computing partners.”

Amazon concluded, “Google has no need for, and no legitimate interest in discovery of, the trove of confidential Amazon information known to Szabadi.”

Google request to intervene is now in the hands of the judge in the case, Jeffrey Ramsdell. We’ll continue to track the dispute and report on new developments as the case progresses.

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