Wednesday, August 11, 2004

I won't say this is a first...

(WARNING: GEEK ALERT!)

Because I don't know that for a fact. However, geeky though the subject matter is, this ought to worry any employee of any company. The headline is "Seagate Files Lawsuit over Trade Secrets". Nothing new there, right? Read the first 2 paragraphs.

Seagate Technology has filed a complaint in a Minnesota court attempting to prevent one of its ex-employees from joining Western Digital, a competitor.

Pete Goglia recently left Seagate Technology LLC to join Western Digital Corp., where he will lead that company's read/write head development after serving at Seagate for 16 years. Seagate is attempting to block the hire, claiming that Goglia will not be able to avoid disclosing Seagate confidential information and trade secrets in the course of his new job.

Note that Seagate isn't alleging the Mr. Goglia has disclosed any trade secrets--they're alleging that he "will not be able to avoid disclosing". They're suing for something that hasn't happened yet.

I hope the court throws this one back in their face and that Mr. Goglia can successfully sue for wrongful prosecution. If he didn't sign a legally enforceable non-compete agreement, Seagate is just plain wrong here. (And you'll note none is mentioned in the Eweek article--if there were one, it would be. It would actually give Seagate a prayer in court.) If in the course of his employment he does disclose Seagate trade secrets to his new employer, then they have a cause for action and not only should they file suit, but they should prevail.

However, suing because someone might reveal something scares the heck out of me, and it should you as well, especially if you're employed in a highly technical field. If Seagate wins, I fear for technical people's ability to change employers at will, because every employer has some sort of "trade secret" that a former employee can divulge--if only if it's only that you worked at the same place Dilbert works.

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