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UPDATE: Affymetrix Accuses Pacific Biosciences of Hiring Away 15 Former Employees

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – In court papers, Affymetrix is accusing Pacific Biosciences with luring away at least 15 of its former employees in order to get an unfair competitive advantage.

Last week, Affy sued PacBio accusing it of "tortious misconduct by conspiring with current and former Affymetrix employees to solicit and hire current Affymetrix employees for the Pac Bio workforce," according to a spokesperson from Affy.

In its complaint filed in Superior Court of the State of California, County of Santa Clara, Affy provides further details of its accusations and alleges that since August 2009, at least 15 employees have left Affy to work at PacBio. These former employees, it added, worked in key functions at Affy "essential to its business in the sales, field applications, and technical service departments."

Affy does not name any of the employees in its lawsuit, saying it does not know their "true names, [identities], and capacities."

When they worked at Affy, though, they signed confidentiality agreements not to disclose information about the company, including Affy's business plans, marketing strategies, budgets, and other information. In addition, the employment agreements bar them for one year after leaving Affy from recruiting other Affy employees away to work elsewhere.

Starting last year, Affy alleges, PacBio "conspired with defendant employees of Affymetrix" to hire employees from Affy, and then gathered confidential information on Affy in order to gain an "unfair economic advantage … in breach of the duty of loyalty of defendant employees, and so as to engage in interference with Affymetrix's contractual relationships and prospective economic advantage."

In September, Affy demanded PacBio cease and desist its "unlawful and unfair competition." PacBio has neither responded to Affy nor stopped the disputed hiring practices.

"Pacific Biosciences has targeted the Affymetrix sales force and senior level employees for the purpose of gaining an unfair competitive advantage," Affy alleges. "This hiring pattern reflects a conspiracy between Pacific Biosciences and current and former Affymetrix employees to interfere with Affymetrix's contractual relations with its employees."

Affy is asking for a permanent injunction against PacBio from "using, disclosing or otherwise transferring" its confidential information, and it is seeking compensatory damages.

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