Amazon is seeking a court order to prevent Brian Hall, former vice president of product marketing at Amazon Web Services, from editing keynote speeches and slides for the upcoming Google Cloud Next conference in his new job at the competing cloud platform summarize. Amazon faces immediate and irreparable damage ”due to its inside knowledge of its secret cloud plans.
This is the latest twist in a major dispute between Amazon and Hall over its new Google Cloud role. The case that GeekWire first reported this week has proven to be a new lightning rod in the longstanding industry debate about bans on competition.
New filings submitted to the King County Superior Court in Seattle this week include an extraordinary public statement by a senior AWS manager on the impact of Google’s annual cloud event on competition.
“My team is watching Google Cloud Next incredibly closely, as this conference has the potential to stage our expected starts and interrupt our positive press for next year,” said Matt Wood, AWS Vice President of Artificial Intelligence. in a submission that supports Amazon’s application. “I am particularly sensitive to the impact of Google Cloud Next, having previously worked for Andy Jassy, CEO of AWS, in the areas of product strategy and speech writing. I know first-hand how a CEO’s speech can have a real and concrete impact on business due to a shift in perception and press coverage. ”
Wood continued, “If Mr. Hall gave Google his perspective on Google’s stories, it would be devastating, especially with regard to my business in ML.”
AI and machine learning have long been strengths of Google Cloud. Amazon’s statements underscore the greater importance of artificial intelligence and machine learning for the major cloud providers. AWS is critical to Amazon’s larger business. In March, the company had sales of $ 7.7 billion and an operating profit of $ 2.2 billion, half of the company’s total sales. It is the best public cloud platform by market share, followed by Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.
Hall’s lawyers replied overnight in a file, describing the Google Cloud Next task as a basic task that is typically done by someone three levels lower in the organization. They say it is part of a bigger effort by Google to keep Hall busy until the outcome of the bigger dispute with Amazon over its new role is available.
“I do not understand this temporary task as requiring that I use or disclose what I know about Amazon’s marketing plans, and I do not intend to perform this task in a way that I can use everything I learned at Amazon “says Hall in his own statement, which supports his rejection of Amazon’s application.
Hall adds: “Even if it were possible to find a way to fulfill these duties and responsibilities in such a way that confidential information is disclosed or used by Amazon, I have no intention of doing so or my obligations after the end of the Employment otherwise violates the Amazon. ”
Google Cloud Next, originally scheduled for April, has been moved and changed to A nine-week virtual event starting next monthdue to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hall lawyers say that the presentations for the conference have been largely set and Hall would focus on issues such as consistency and overlap between the various speeches and presentations.
The job was chosen not because of Hall’s insider knowledge of Amazon’s secrets, but because of his previous experience writing speeches for Microsoft executives, including then-CEO Steve Ballmer and co-founder Bill Gates.
In a statement submitted by AmazonAccording to Rachel Thornton, AWS vice president of global marketing, Hall played a similar role in Amazon’s re: Invent 2019 cloud conference. He worked on Jassy’s keynote speech for 21 weeks and then met with the press to begin an analysis of the Amazon product.
Thornton says: “Given the nature of the conference, Mr. Hall is unable, as suggested by Google, to help Google Cloud messaging for current and potential customers, partners and developers at the next 20 conference without having to rely on them confidential information and strategies he developed on Amazon. ”
“For example,” she adds, “Mr. Hall could revise the Google narrative to, among other things, anticipate and undercut which products AWS plans to launch, what relative strengths and weaknesses the products have, how Google has its products on the Positions who the Google products are marketed to and the associated prices, which Google could also use to prevent AWS’s existing marketing plans from happening through market intelligence. ”
To demonstrate the importance of its secrets, Amazon filed several sealed documents with the court, inaugurating King County’s Supreme Court Justice Sean O’Donnell in some of his best-kept plans.
This includes a “strictly confidential start list of new AWS products, services and functions by 2021” and a document with “strictly confidential information about a new service that AWS developed and which is expected to be launched in December 2020 or 2021, however published has not yet been published. ”
It is unusual for Amazon to focus on one competitor in an ultimately public forum. One of the companies Leadership principles recognizes the importance of paying attention to competitors, but says customer obsession is paramount.
The non-competition clause is also unusual because it is a marketing manager, not a technical manager with deep technical expertise. However, in its recent filing, Amazon claims that Hall routinely met with top AWS executives and had access to confidential strategic planning documents, which allowed it “broad visibility and participation in Amazon’s cloud business plans”.
“In short, Hall knew the roadmap and competitive strategies for Amazon’s cloud computing products by 2021 and helped shape them. He was instrumental in selling this vision to Amazon’s actual and potential customers,” said it in the company’s filing.
Hall replies in his file: “First of all, I don’t even know to what extent my knowledge of Amazon’s marketing plans is still current or relevant.”
“But more importantly,” he adds, “I understand that the content of Google’s keynotes and other sessions for Next 20 has already been set up by conference speakers and Google’s product teams, who have already made critical decisions about these people and teams what functions should be created and highlighted. My job will only be to edit these speeches to ensure consistency and avoid duplication during the nine-week conference. ”
A trial on Amazon’s larger injunction request is scheduled for July 31. Amazon is trying to enforce an 18-month ban on competition in Hall’s employment contract and is demanding an injunction to prevent him from working in cloud product marketing for Google during this period.
In the meantime, Amazon is asking for an injunction to keep Hall from working on Google Cloud Next, as Google had planned for Hall to start working on the job this week. Court records indicate that a hearing on the subject is imminent.
A separate short-term task in which Hall would review the organizational structure of Google Cloud product marketing and make recommendations does not appear to be controversial.
In the larger case, Hall asks the court to regulate the non-competition clause “overseas, inappropriate and unenforceable” and to state that because of his new role, he “does not need to use or disclose confidential information from Amazon.”
It is the latest in a series of lawsuits filed by Amazon and others in Washington state to enforce non-competition contracts in employment contracts. The controversial agreements have been largely banned in California, and Washington State has passed new regulations last year to limit their applicability.
However, employees who earn more than $ 100,000 annually are exempt from the new Washington state law. Amazon said in its latest submission that Hall’s “total compensation for 2019 was seven digits and is expected to increase in 2020”.