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EMC accuses Pure Storage of 'raiding' its people, IP

Sueball thrown at departing employee alleges 'unfair campaign'

Joe Tucci EMC

EMC has accused flashy startup Pure Storage and “numerous former EMC employees” of conducting a “campaign” “to compete unfairly with EMC by, among other things, misappropriating EMC’s Confidential Information and Property, unlawfully soliciting EMC’s customers and raiding EMC of its valuable employees, all in an effort to increase Pure Storage’s presence in the marketplace at the expense of EMC.”

The quotes above come from a sueball (PDF) thrown by EMC in the case of EMC Corporation v. Johnson, currently burbling through the US District Court.

First spotted by Universal Hub, EMC's filing says “The action is part of a larger drama unfolding between EMC and various of its former employees, each of whom have resigned from EMC to join direct competitor Pure Storage, Inc. (“Pure Storage”), and each of whom have wrongfully taken confidential and competitively sensitive EMC materials with them upon joining Pure Storage.”

EMC alleges that Johnson, a former partner sales manager, “... on September 17th and 18th, 2013 – during the final 48 hours of his EMC employment – … surreptitiously accessed several EMC files on his Laptop from two separate external storage devices (“External Storage Devices”) that he failed to return upon his termination from EMC.”

EMC says the files he obtained include:

  • A list of 93,000 EMC customers containing purchase histories, prices paid and more information;
  • The “EMC Competitive Selling Guide” that explains “EMC’s strategy for selling its XtremIO flash storage product against Pure Storage’s FA Series products”;
  • A document detailing customer and partner relationships;
  • A document detailing “extensive data and analysis regarding EMC’s strategy for leveraging customer and partner relationships”.

The filing reveals EMC's ability to monitor employees' PCs is extensive, detailing it was able to detect that Johnson used his EMC email address to open an account at EMC's cloud storage service Syncplicity.com, uploaded documents to it and was still using it five days after he departed.

Johnson's based in Texas, but Boston's the legal venue for the case because EMC says Johnson signed employee agreements that operate under Massachusetts law.

EMC's desired outcome from the case is “declaratory relief and preliminary and permanent injunctive relief to enjoin its former employees from continuing to possess EMC Property, from using or disseminating EMC Property, and from unlawfully soliciting EMC employees and customers”. We think that's legalese for “provably delete all the documents we say you have, don't share it with anyone and stop pinching our people”.

The filing also reveals that EMC staff are walking to Pure in decent numbers.

"Since last year, not fewer than 30 high-performing employees have departed EMC under suspicious circumstances to join Pure Storage," it reads. That's a decent brain drain. Johnson is mentioned as having earned $US1.1m over the last four years. Not many folks would walk away from that kind of payday, so we imagine the other 29 who've moved to Pure believed the grass would be greener on the other side.

The Reg will attempt to track the case as it burbles through the justice system. ®

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