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HP suing former exec over theft of trade secrets

Hewlett-Packard has launched a suit against Adrian Jones, a senior VP in the Asian division, alleging that he stole trade secrets before joining Oracle.

In a case that echos of its turmoil with ex-CEO Mark Hurd, Hewlett-Packard is suing a former executive, claiming he stole trade secrets before jumping ship to Oracle.

In the lawsuit filed yesterday, HP alleges that Adrian Jones, the former head of enterprise sales in the company's Asian division, copied proprietary documents and e-mails about HP product information onto a USB device, according to Reuters.

In a further twist to the case, HP said it was going to fire Jones after it learned that he had an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate, had set up a large pay increase for that person, and had filed several thousand dollars worth of business expenses over visits with the subordinate, though no company business was involved, said The Wall Street Journal (subscription required).

HP e-mailed CNET the following statement, explaining its part in the lawsuit:

"HP takes the protection of its trade secrets and confidential information seriously. This action seeks to prevent Jones from using the theft of confidential HP documents to place HP in an unfair competitive disadvantage."

The suit against Jones harkens back to the scandal last year involving HP's former CEO Mark Hurd and rival Oracle. Hurd was forced to resign after HP's board determined that he had violated the company's code of business conduct in light of a relationship with a former contractor and fudged expense reports.

After being hired by Oracle as co-president, Hurd was presented with a lawsuit by HP, accusing him of breach of contract and the threatened misappropriation of trade secrets. That case was settled a couple of weeks later out of court with Hurd agreeing to honor his confidentiality agreement with HP but also returning some HP stock given to him as part of his overall compensation package.