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Borland Sues Microsoft, Says It Raided Staff

Technology: Industry giant calls complaint, which seeks unspecified damages, without merit.

May 08, 1997|From Times Wire Services

Software maker Borland International Inc. said Wednesday that it is suing Microsoft Corp., accusing the industry behemoth of raiding it for top software engineers and marketing managers in a bid to gain confidential information and impair competition.

Borland said it filed an unfair-competition lawsuit against Microsoft that asks that Microsoft be barred from such practices and seeks an unspecified amount in damages.

Borland Chief Executive Delbert Yocam said Microsoft's actions could threaten his company's effort to turn itself around after a year of financial losses. The company, once a major maker of personal computer software, has scaled back drastically in recent years to concentrate on software tools, programs used to create applications.

Scotts Valley-based Borland claims that Microsoft used millions of dollars in signing bonuses to hire away 34 of its top software architects, engineers and marketing managers over the last 30 months. It alleges that Microsoft put many of these people in strategic positions similar to ones they held at Borland.

"We must stop the predatory business practices of Microsoft, which is hell-bent on seeking the demise of our company," Yocam told reporters in a conference call. "I have no problem with competition, but I have a real problem with unfair competition."

The suit was filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court in San Jose.

Microsoft spokesman Mark Murray said the company had not yet seen a copy of Borland's suit and could not comment on its specifics. But he said that Microsoft believes the suit is without merit.

"It's a little silly when you look at what's going on across the software industry," Murray said. "Lots of people move between companies, and given the demand for highly skilled employees, virtually every company tries to recruit good people from other companies."

He also pointed out that Borland has laid off hundreds of people in the last few years. The most recent cuts came in February, when the company reduced its work force by 300 people, or nearly 30%.

Murray said Microsoft does not seek confidential information.

The lawsuit is the latest in a series of corporate suits and antitrust actions by Silicon Valley companies that have accused rivals of stealing or intending to steal trade secrets.

Shares of Borland fell 19 cents to close at $6.69 in Nasdaq trading, while Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft shares declined $1.81 cents to close at $115.50, also on Nasdaq.

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