Last night, in BlackBerry-related news, we found out that the well-regarded Senior VP of Software, Sebastien Marineau, has resigned from BlackBerry to accept a position of VP of Core OS at Apple. BlackBerry felt that its soon-to-be former executive violated their agreement so they brought the matter before the courts and prevailed.
For those unaware, Sebastien Marineau came over as part of the QNX acquisition, and worked very closely alongside Dan Dodge for many years. He’s a core OS guy, and his team was largely responsible for the creation of BlackBerry 10, in addition to owning the development of the micro kernel that drives it all.
I’ve seen quite a few stories about this and they seem to paint the wrong picture. They make it seem as if BlackBerry is forcing Mr. Marineau to keep working for them for another six months.
What’s really happening is that BlackBerry is enforcing an anti-compete clause in Marineau’s contract. This is standard practice in the industry and it looks like the courts made the right decision here.
Technically, the clause seems to be worded such that Marineau needs to give six months notice of resignation. But in reality, what happens is you hand in your resignation letter and leave the office. You then wait out the terms of the anti-compete clause.
Legally, since Marineau is still an employee of BlackBerry, he could be asked to do specific work. But I highly doubt that would happen. Once you tell your bosses that you are going to work for a competitor, you are walked to the door. You’re gone. It’s not smart to keep soon-to-be competitors in the office. You don’t want them involved in strategic decisions anymore.
The whole point of an anti-compete clause is so that employees do not have up-to-date information about their former employer when they join their new employer. That’s why clauses of six months tend to succeed, while some companies try to get very aggressive and ask employees to sign anti-compete agreements lasting 3 years. You know what happens when an employee violates that kind agreement? The court sides with the employee because it (mostly) isn’t fair to ask someone to be unemployed for 3 years.
Anyway, my take on this is that the courts made the right move. The OS is a key differentiator of BlackBerry right now, and Sebastian Marineau is a key employee who has been driving BlackBerry 10. It wouldn’t be fair to have him walk into the Apple campus in California immediately after resigning from BlackBerry.
I hope that helps explain what’s happening for those who are curious.