IBM is filing suit against a former employee who wants to work for Dell, claiming that the new position would violate an agreement restricting his employment with rivals.
IBM’s former mergers-and-acquisitions chief David Johnson is a 27-year veteran at Big Blue. Dell has not disclosed the position offered to Johnson, but IBM doesn’t want to risk valuable information if Johnson ends up in a senior strategy position.
“Mr. Johnson has possession of valuable confidential information and cannot undertake a senior strategy position at Dell without violating his obligations to IBM,” Edward Barbini, a spokesman for IBM, told Bloomberg today. Barbini went on to say that Mr. Johnson “repeatedly received significant compensation” in return for an non-compete agreement.
The news echoes IBM’s recent suit against former vice president of microprocessor technology development, Mark Papermaster, when he tried to take up a position at Apple. A federal judge ordered Papermaster to step back from his position at Apple until the matter was resolved and it later emerged that Judge Kenneth Karas felt Papermaster’s presence at Apple could cause IBM some serious damage.
During the suit, Papermaster said that after he handed in his two weeks notice and told IBM of his plans to move to Apple, he was allowed to continue to work for two full weeks with unfettered access to all of his files and to the company’s entire computer network. Papermaster alleged that this meant the company’s claim that it would suffer irreparable harm or hardship due to ’inevitable disclosure’ of ’trade secrets’ was absurd.
Eventually a settlement was reached and Papermaster was allowed to start work at Apple once he’d been out of IBM six months. Papermaster must report back to IBM in July and again in October to certify that he has not used or disclosed any important IBM information to his new employer.