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EMC wins Round 1 vs. Donatelli, HP

A Massachusetts court has found in EMC Corp.’s favor after the vendor took its former storage division president David Donatelli to court over a non-compete clause in his contract the storage giant argues should prevent him from taking a new position at rival Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP).

Reuters reported that Donatelli will not start his new job with HP as scheduled today. According to the report:

The court ruled former EMC storage division president David Donatelli could not proceed with plans to start a job on Tuesday as head of HP’s storage, server and networking groups, until the two companies resolve a legal dispute over the terms of a non-compete clause he signed with EMC.


“The court concludes that the covenant which Donatelli signed is an enforceable contract, is not unreasonably broad (at least on its face) and serves legitimate business interests of EMC,” Stephen Neel, Justice of Massachusetts Suffolk County Superior Court, said in the order issued on Monday.

“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.”

If Donatelli wants to get the preliminary injunction preventing him from starting work with HP lifted, he has to prove in the Massachusetts court that his role with HP, which also covers servers and networking, is mostly unrelated to his work with EMC.

In the meantime, this EMC case is actually a countersuit filed in response to litigation from Donatelli in California seeking to invalidate his EMC contract’s noncompete clause. As noted in the Reuters article, California has a different stance on such clauses from Massachusetts; if opposite rulings are found in separate states, “nobody really knows definitively at this point what the next step would be,” according to sources close to the case.

EMC has been tight-lipped so far on the case. A a spokesperson today would say only, “EMC is aware of the court’s decision.” HP released a longer statement, which read, in part, “the court’s order is preliminary, and we are confident that Mr. Donatelli will be permitted to join HP in a leadership role once a full hearing of the issues is held. We are similarly disappointed by the lengths to which EMC has gone to impede Mr. Donatelli’s efforts to seek other employment.”

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