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Originally published January 26, 2011 at 7:10 PM | Page modified January 27, 2011 at 1:49 PM

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Microsoft sues former manager to stop him from taking job at rival

Microsoft is suing a former employee, Matthew Miszewski, to stop him from taking a job at a major competitor, Salesforce.com.

Seattle Times technology reporter

Microsoft is suing a former employee, Matthew Miszewski, to stop him from taking a job at a major rival, Salesforce.com.

According to the lawsuit filed Wednesday in King County Superior Court, Microsoft claims Miszewski breached his employment agreement because he took a job at Salesforce.com doing what he did at Microsoft.

Microsoft also seeks an injunction to prevent Miszewski from working at Salesforce, and the court has granted a temporary restraining order, according to Microsoft.

"This case involves an employee with knowledge of Microsoft's sensitive customer and competitive information going to work for Salesforce.com, a direct competitor, in a job that is focused on the same solutions and customers," David Howard, deputy general counsel at Microsoft, said in a statement.

"This directly violates the confidentiality and noncompetition agreements signed upon beginning work with our company."

Miszewski declined to comment on the litigation. San Francisco-based Salesforce.com also would not comment.

Microsoft rarely sues former employees for breach of contract. The last publicized case was in 2005 when Microsoft sued Google for hiring executive Kai-Fu Lee to run Google's operations in China. The two companies settled without disclosing details.

Microsoft competes with Salesforce in customer-relationship-management software and services, also known as CRM. The two also sell competing cloud-computing platforms, which both consider to be a market with immense potential for growth.

Rivals' legal battles

Litigation between the two shows their intense rivalry. Last year, Microsoft sued Salesforce over patent infringement.

Salesforce countersued, and the two companies settled in August.

Salesforce is also trying to recruit workers away from Microsoft to open a new office in Seattle.

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Miszewski joined Microsoft in 2007 and eventually became general manager of the company's Worldwide Public Sector group. Before Microsoft, he served as chief information officer of the state of Wisconsin.

On Jan. 18, Salesforce said Miszewski would join the company as its senior vice president of global public sector to promote cloud computing with government customers.

Well versed in strategy

Microsoft said in court documents that Miszewski had access to confidential information on its business strategy, sales information and marketing plans, and he had signed a confidentiality and noncompete agreement that prevented him from disclosing information or joining a rival company for a year after leaving.

The court documents Microsoft filed emphasize that his new job would "target precisely the same market segment" he was responsible for while he was at Microsoft.

A hearing has been set for Feb. 10.

Sharon Pian Chan: 206-464-2958 or schan@seattletimes.com

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