Amazon sues former AWS VP who took Google Cloud job

Tech giant alleges a former Amazon Web Services vice president violated his noncompete agreement

Amazon has filed a lawsuit against a former employee for taking a job at Google.

The e-commerce giant is suing Brian Hall, the former vice president of marketing for Amazon Web Services, for allegedly violating his noncompete agreement when he left Amazon and took a similar job -- vice president of product marketing -- at competitor Google Cloud.

In a Monday response to the lawsuit, Hall's lawyers said Amazon repeatedly led him to believe the company would not strictly enforce the 18-month, non-compete clause of his confidentiality agreement, tech magazine Geekwire first reported.

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Hall was employed with AWS since July 2018 until his employment formally ended in March 2020.

Amazon World Headquarters in Seattle. (iStock)

The agreement states that for 18 months, employees will not "directly or indirectly...engage in or support the development, manufacture, marketing, or sale of any product or service that competes or is intended to compete with any product or service sold, offered, or otherwise provided by Amazon ... that Employee worked on or supported," according to the complaint.

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"Hall's confidential Amazon knowledge would obviously be invaluable to Google if he's allowed to take that parallel and competitive position at Google," the complaint reads.

The lawsuit adds that Amazon made requests to Google and Hall that he "modify his role at Google to place him in a position where he will not inevitably use or disclose Amazon’s confidential information," but he and Google "have refused to do so."

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Amazon concludes that Hall's decision to take a similar role at Google "threatens immediate and irreparable harm to Amazon," and the company had no choice but to seek "the Court's assistance in requiring Hall to comply with his contractual obligations."

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The response from Hall's lawyers states that Ariel Kelman, the former AWS vice president of worldwide marketing who now works at AWS competitor Oracle, told Hall that the non-compete would not be enforced, according to Geekwire.

Amazon Lab 126 (iStock)

"Kelman ... told Hall that he had never seen Amazon attempt to enforce the clause against a marketing employee, even though several such employees had previously departed for similar positions at Amazon's rivals. Hall accepted his position with Amazon in reliance on those representations," the response obtained by Geekwire states.

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Kelman, however, lives in California, where non-compete agreements are virtually non-enforceable under California Labor Code section 925 since 2017. Hall lives in Washington state, where non-compete laws are strict but can still be enforced.

Gov. Jay Inslee, D.-Wash., signed a bill into law last May, which went into effect in January, that says non-competes are not enforceable unless "the employer discloses the terms of the covenant in writing to the prospective employee no later than acceptance by the employee of an offer of employment; or... the employee earns more than $100,000 a year," among other exceptions.

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Amazon said in its lawsuit that Hall earned a salary "well in excess" of $100,000 in 2019.

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Amazon sued former employee Phillip Moyer last year for taking a job at Google Cloud; the judge on the case ultimately decided to limit some aspects of Moyer's position at Google Cloud and said some of the provisions in Amazon's non-compete were "unreasonable," according to GeekWire.