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HP’s Bid to Block Hurd’s Oracle Move Is Long Shot, Lawyers Say

Publication Date: 
September 08, 2010
Business Week - Bloomberg
Joel Rosenblatt and Aaron Ricadela

Professor Mark Lemley is quoted on Hewlett-Packard's lawsuit to block former CEO Mark Hurd from working at Oracle Corp. on the grounds that Hurd may disclose HP's trade secrets or other confidential information. Joel Rosenblatt and Aaron Ricadela of Business Week report:

Hewlett-Packard Co.’s lawsuit seeking to block former Chief Executive Officer Mark Hurd from working at Oracle Corp. may be hard to win because California’s courts favor letting employees move freely, legal experts said.

HP said that serving as an Oracle president would make it “impossible” for Hurd to avoid using or disclosing HP’s trade secrets and confidential information, according to yesterday’s complaint in California’s Santa Clara County Superior Court.

The theory that trade secrets will inevitably be disclosed “won’t work in California as a reason to prevent someone from taking a job,” said Mark Lemley, a professor at Stanford Law School who specializes in intellectual property. “Neither will California courts enforce a noncompete agreement. HP will have to show real evidence that Mark Hurd is about to use its secrets at Oracle.”


If HP’s case against Hurd doesn’t settle, the company can prevail in California only by showing actual or threatened misuse of a trade secret, Lemley said in an e-mail.

“California courts affirmatively encourage employee mobility,” he said. “That is one of the things that made Silicon Valley possible.”