In Silicon Valley, human capital is as mobile as financial capital. Employees’ freedom to find the best way to use their skills and advance their careers is a key factor that has driven the development of Silicon Valley. 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. 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.
It’s a sad day when great companies think they need to sue their own employees over and over again to stop them from bettering themselves in their chosen profession. Some states allow this. No company is forced to take advantage of it. Ironically, HP itself, when it recently hired an IBM employee who was under non-compete, argued that protection of intellectual property should be the only goal and the non-compete should be invalidated. Cisco’s promise to those looking to work in the networking industry is that no matter which of the fifty states you live in and work for Cisco, if you come to work for us we will apply California’s rule in favor of employee mobility nationwide. We know that employee retention is a matter of fair compensation and career opportunity, not litigation. And 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.