Amazon is suing a former Amazon Web Services strategic partnerships manager, Zoltan Szabadi, alleging that his new job at Google Cloud Platform violates the terms of a non-compete agreement that he signed when he originally joined Amazon.
The suit will be closely watched in the tech industry 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 also underscores the growing rivalry between Amazon and Google in the cloud.
“Szabadi was directly and integrally involved with the marketing of Amazon’s cloud computing business to its partners and resellers, and played a significant role in developing Amazon’s business strategy and direction in this area,” the suit says. “Szabadi was involved in developing, implementing and managing Amazon Web Services’ strategy for many of its partners, and was the first point of contact for most partners who were considering working with Amazon.”
The suit, filed June 27 in King County Superior Court in Seattle, seeks to take advantage of a more favorable climate for non-compete deals in Washington state, where the terms of such deals have generally been allowed, if considered reasonable. Non-compete clauses have repeatedly been found invalid in California, where Google is based.
According to the suit, Google on its own required Szabadi to agree not to solicit business from customers that he worked with at Amazon for six months after joining Google. He also agreed not to recruit employees from Amazon for the same time period.
But Amazon says Google’s restrictions on Szabadi don’t live up to the terms of the non-compete, non-solicitation and trade secret restrictions in Szabadi’s employment agreement with Amazon.
The case against Szabadi is similar to Amazon’s 2012 suit against a former Amazon Web Services vice president, Daniel Powers, who joined Google as the search giant’s director of cloud platform sales. That case was transferred to federal court in Seattle, where a judge declined to enforce the most sweeping provisions of Amazon’s non-compete agreement.
Although large portions of the two complaints are identical, Amazon appears to have slightly adjusted its approach based on the previous ruling, testing the legal limits of non-compete agreements.
In the earlier case, for example, Amazon sought to restrict Powers from “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. A federal judge found that overall ban on competition to be too broad, but said Amazon could keep Powers from working directly with his former Amazon customers for a shorter amount of time, nine months.
In the new case against Szabadi, Amazon is seeking a more specific injunction, preventing him “from engaging in any activities that directly or indirectly support any aspect of Google’s cloud computing business with partners or resellers.”
Here’s the full lawsuit. (Thanks to Venkat Balasubramani for spotting this one.)