Cisco's general counsel, Mark Chandler, has launched a fierce attack on HP, accusing the tech giant of repeatedly suing ex-employees to prevent them defecting to Cisco.
In a lengthy blog post on Wednesday, Chandler explained that HP has just filed its third lawsuit in two years.
"As headhunters and other companies are flooded with resumes from HP employees seeking safe ground amidst the chaos of executive turnover, we can probably expect to see more desperate moves to lock up human capital," he argued.
"In an unhappy work environment, it's a strange decision to try to achieve employee retention by litigation. And it can't help recruitment efforts when it seems the corporate slogan could be changed from ‘HP Invent' to ‘HP Sue'."
Chandler argued that one of Silicon Valley's greatest strengths has been that employees are given the freedom "to find the best way to use their skills and advance their careers" without fear of non-compete clauses.
"Trade secrets are protected by intellectual property laws, not by non-compete agreements and vague theories that a new job would ‘inevitably' cause an employee to use trade secrets of his or her former employer," he added.
"Somehow, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard didn't see a need to build a company based on suing people who might want to leave. As HP has grown in states other than California, however, it's tried to impose restrictions on employee mobility."
Chandler explained that in the first of the three legal cases against former HP employees, the individual withdrew from his position at Cisco due to the threatening nature of the litigation.
In the most recent case, an HP employee with over 20 years service at the firm was targeted unsuccessfully in a court in California and Texas in order to prevent the individual joining Cisco.
"We challenge HP, with new leadership deeply steeped in Silicon Valley's environment of mobility and opportunity, to step up and support employee freedom and stop suing employees just for leaving," he added.
It remains to be seen whether new chief executive Meg Whitman will try to change the firm's legal strategy, given the potentially bad publicity it could generate.
She will certainly be doing all she can to turn around the fortunes of the ailing tech giant after disappointing results earlier this week, even going so far as to promise to "reduce the drama here".
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