It seems like only yesterday that Oracle announced it was hiring former HP CEO Mark Hurd to be a Co-President and member of the Board — that’s because it was just yesterday. And now just one day later, we have a lawsuit filed by HP to block such a maneuver by Oracle.
In confirming the lawsuit in a brief blog post today, HP’s official corporate blog highlights what they see as the key issue here: trade secrets and confidential information. HP even included a link to the full complaint that they’ve posted on Scribd (embed below). Here’s the key nugget:
In his new positions, Hurd will be in a situation in which he cannot perform his duties for Oracle without necessarily using and disclosing HP’s trade secrets and confidential information to others.
It’s important to note that while Hurd signed a non-compete agreement in his contract with HP, those almost never hold up in California courts. Instead, HP’s angle is to say that Hurd has trade secrets that could hurt HP if rival Oracle knew them. This is undoubtedly true, but the question is whether Hurd can perform his new duty without disclosing those to Oracle?
In some ways, this is similar to the fight IBM and Apple had last year over Mark Papermaster (though, thanks to the scandal involved in his HP dismissal, much more high profile, obviously). Following Apple’s hiring of Papermaster, a California court ruled that he had to stop work due to his potential knowledge of IBM trade secrets. This was eventually settled, but Papermaster had to sit on the sidelines for several months. (Incidentally, Papermaster and Apple parted ways only a little over a year later.)
We look forward to Oracle’s response to all of this grandstanding — they had to know this was coming. This is the story that won’t go away.