An executive’s resignation and intention to begin work for a competitor of his former employer has resulted in a bicoastal battle of lawsuits over the terms of a noncompete clause in his employment agreement.

On April 27, 2009, David Donatelli resigned his position as president of EMC Corp.’s storage division. That same day, Donatelli filed a lawsuit in California state court asking for a declaratory judgment voiding the noncompete clause in his employment agreement with EMC Corp. Donatelli’s attorneys are no doubt cognizant of California law’s hostility to noncompete clauses and sought to establish jurisdiction where the chances of enforcement of the noncompete are minimal. Donatelli intended to begin working at Hewlett Packard on May 5, 2009.

Placing a close second in the proverbial race to the courthouse, on April 28, 2009, EMC Corp. filed a suit in the Superior Court, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, alleging that Donatelli violated the noncompete in his employment agreement. EMC Corp. quickly moved for preliminary injunctive relief, and on May 4, 2009, Judge Stephen E. Neel issued a temporary injunction preventing Donatelli from starting his new position at Hewlett Packard as planned, pending a full hearing, noting: “Donatelli’s intention to work for HP in California, which has a statutory prohibition on covenants not to compete, does not warrant denial of EMC’s request for injunctive relief.”

It will be interesting to see if the California court renders a decision prior to the hearing in the Massachusetts court, and whether one court will defer to the other.

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