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Originally published April 15, 2011 at 6:44 PM | Page modified April 15, 2011 at 6:45 PM

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Court upholds ban on former Microsoft worker taking job with competitor

A former Microsoft employee has been blocked from taking a job with major competitor Salesforce.com comparable to what he did at the Redmond-based company, a King County Superior Court judge ordered Friday.

Seattle Times staff reporter

A former Microsoft employee has been blocked from taking a job with major competitor Salesforce.com comparable to what he did at the Redmond-based company, a King County Superior Court judge ordered Friday.

The issue arose in January when Salesforce announced that Matthew Miszewski, a former general manager at Microsoft, would be taking a senior vice president position in which he would lead the company's cloud-computing initiatives in the global public sector.

At Microsoft, Miszewski was an industry market-development manager in the company's Worldwide Public Sector group, which is responsible for the marketing and sales of Microsoft customer-relationship management (CRM) software and cloud computing in that sector. He left Microsoft on Dec. 31 and joined Salesforce around Jan. 18, according to court documents.

Microsoft subsequently filed a lawsuit against Miszewski for taking the Salesforce job, contending he had breached his employment agreement. That agreement states personnel cannot take jobs in competition with Microsoft within a year after employment, according to court documents.

The company sought an injunction to keep Miszewski from working at Salesforce, which King County Superior Court Judge Kimberley Prochnau ordered Friday.

The preliminary injunction prohibits Miszewski from taking a marketing position with Salesforce that deals with either the private or public sector in the U.S. or globally until Dec. 31.

"We are pleased," David Howard, Microsoft corporate vice president and deputy general counsel, said in a statement Friday. "... 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."

Both Miszewski and Salesforce declined to comment on the case.

San Francisco-based Salesforce competes with Microsoft in cloud-based computing and CRM offerings. The two companies are active in the domestic U.S. market, and Salesforce "obviously intends to compete aggressively with Microsoft in the global sector as well," the court found.

Before the hearing Friday, Salesforce proposed a new position for Miszewski that was intended to avoid conflicts with what had been his purview at Microsoft. The job would have been limited to the private-sector customers in Washington, Oregon and Canada. The court's preliminary injunction blocked it, too, until Dec. 31.

In an earlier, highly publicized case involving employment, Microsoft sued Google in 2005 for hiring Kai-Fu Lee, a former Microsoft vice president, to run Google's operations in China. The case was eventually settled.

Lee did go on to run Google's China operations. He no longer is with the company.

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Joanna Nolasco: 206-464-3263 or jnolasco@seattletimes.com. This story includes material from The Seattle Times archives.

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