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HP wins restraining order against former executive

Judge orders man who accused HP of snooping on Dell to withdraw his countersuit against company, but says he is free to refile under seal.

Hewlett-Packard was granted a temporary restraining order Thursday against a former executive who has accused the company in court documents of spying on rival Dell.

Karl Kamb Jr., who is being sued by HP for allegedly pilfering company trade secrets, was ordered by a federal judge in Tyler, Texas, to withdraw his countersuit filed with the court on Friday. (Click here for PDF.) Kamb accused HP of paying Katsumi Iizuka, a former Dell president in Japan, to snoop on his former employer.

Kamb, who HP alleges built his consumer electronics business, Byd:sign, with money he "siphoned" from HP, also claims the company obtained his phone records through fraudulent means.

Documents related to HP suit
These are PDFs of documents
related to an HP suit against
a former exec and his

Alleged 'competitive intelligence' proposal
Judge's denial of dismissal
Judge's order to withdraw

Michael Schneider, the U.S. District Court judge presiding over the case, said that Kamb is free to again file his countersuit but must do so under seal and "shall not attach any exhibits" that he included with the documents filed Friday.

Schneider also ordered both sides not to disclose information about the case to the media.

In the attachments were copies of e-mails allegedly exchanged among Kamb, other HP employees and the former Dell Japan president who Kamb claims was hired in 2002 to inform HP about Dell's plans to enter the printer business.

On Wednesday, Dell's only comment on the case was that Iizuka had left the company in 1995, eight years before Dell ventured into the printer business. On Thursday, Dell had more to say.

"We take seriously the allegations that Dell confidential information might have been obtained by a competitor through improper or unlawful means," wrote Bob Pearson, a Dell spokesman, in an e-mail. "We believe in vigorous but fair competition. There is no place for industrial espionage, and if we discover that we have been the victim of that we will consider all appropriate actions in response."

In a statement on Wednesday, HP denied Kamb's accusations. "This counterclaim is wholly without merit," HP said. "It's a blatant attempt to delay the prosecution of the original case...We intend to vigorously pursue our original claim and to defend ourselves against this action."

Kamb has denied any wrongdoing.

Schneider on Thursday also denied a motion to dismiss (PDF) that Kamb and the other defendants had filed earlier. He ruled that HP's arguments and allegations were strong enough to let the case continue.