Amazon Sues Google Over New Hire

Posted on June 9, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Amazon, Cloud, Google with 9 Comments

Amazon has sued Google to prevent a former Amazon executive from taking a job in the search giant’s Google Cloud business, arguing that doing so violates his non-compete agreement.

The suit, which was first reported by Geekwire, involves Brian Hall, who worked for Microsoft for over 20 years, which is where I interacted with him quite a bit back in the day.

Hall had hinted at the problems in a tweet I saw last week, noting that “I want to make it clear that I’m a big [Amazon Web Services] fan. The AWS people are fantastic. I really enjoyed working there [and] great things are happening for the industry. When I disclosed [that] I left, I got asked a lot of [questions]. It’s complicated, but I’m a fan!”

The source of that tweet was an earlier tweet in which Hall suggested that he left Amazon alongside several other executives because the firm wouldn’t commit to not selling facial recognition surveillance technology to police departments in the wake of country-wide protests over the police killing of George Floyd.

Anyway, Hall wasn’t at Amazon very long—he started there in June 2018—but he always wasn’t out of work very long, either: Google hired him in April 2020 after he stepped down from Amazon in March.

Amazon’s suit gets pretty personal. It claims that Hall only stepped down after he was passed over for a promotion, and that he had no experience in “cloud product marketing” prior to working for Amazon, noting that “he recently worked for companies developing earbuds, computers, and related hardware.” Even I know that’s not true, since my dealing with Hall involved Microsoft’s work in the cloud. But the point there is to obliterate the 20+ years of experience that Hall gained while working for Amazon’s cross-town rival.

Amazon would like to prevent Hall from starting his work at Google for 18 months, in keeping with the terms of his non-compete agreement.

In his response, Hall claims that the agreement is unenforceable and that the firm had explicitly told him it would never pursue such action regardless. “Amazon led Hall to believe that it had no objections to the new role,” the response notes. “No longer is Amazon ‘[v]ery happy’ about Hall’s new role, nor does it ‘wish [him] nothing but the best’,” as two Amazon executives previously told him.

Everyone loves a good fight, so it will be interesting to see where this lands. Hall’s Twitter profile now reads as “VP in Purgatory [at] Google.” My guess is that it will remain like that for 18 more months.

Join the discussion!


Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Comments (9)

9 responses to “Amazon Sues Google Over New Hire”

  1. plm

    Something seems confusing about the timeline. The George Floyd protest started within the past two weeks. But in reading the article he apparently left Amazon in March. Maybe he left earlier in protest over something that happened with facial recognition that was before the tragic and heinous death of George Floyd?

    • wright_is

      In reply to plm:

      He walked out over facial recognition, not the Flloyd killing. Facial recognition has been a controversial subject for several years and came to a head towards the end of last year and the beginning of this year, due to its uncontrolled use by law enforcement, using images from social media without permission and being terribly unreliable when the subject is not Caucasian.

  2. crmguru

    Non Competes are brutal in this business. With a good attorney he may be able to get out of it. With Google on his side he may be able just to wait out his Non Compete. Non Compete agreements are dumb, generally. An NDA is a better way to keep somone from absconding with your IP. The dealio is that Non Competes are hard to enforce if you don't enforce them all equally. Which is clearly not happening. Ya can't just let some pass and others you nail the offender to the wall like this. You can't keep people from working in thier career field, and if you are not competing heads up in the exact same market/product/customer list, then it is pretty ineffective. Many judges will set the Noncompete aside if you can make a good case. Come back to Microsoft... I am sure we would love to have him.

  3. akcanuck

    Seth Rogen?

  4. glenn8878

    "Hall claims that the agreement is unenforceable". That's only true if Amazon loses or Amazon's lawsuit is summarily dismissed. He lost me when his reason to quit is to interfere with Amazon's business.

  5. glenn8878

    In reply to MikeGalos:

    No, it’s right up there that he doesn’t want a product to be sold to the police. You don’t know anything about it ethically being used. You just indicted the police.

  6. red.radar

    The lengths amazon went to defame his reputation is troubling. A resume is pretty easy to validate why slander and lie? That could backfire on Amazon.

    Out of curiosity ... what’s wrong with police having facial recognition technology? Is it a case of no check and balance? No accountability in how the data gets used ?

    • Paul Thurrott

      This is what's wrong with the police using facial recognition technology:
  7. codymesh

    The replies to this person's tweets about getting sued are hilarious, it's basically full of ex-amazon tech employees going "of course", like it's an open secret