Baidu sues former high-level research engineer for breaching non-disclosure and non-compete agreements after joining ByteDance

2 min read

As our sister site is reporting, Baidu has sued Kang Zeyu (康泽宇), a former high-level research engineer for violating non-disclosure and non-compete agreements. He joined a company affiliated with Jinri Toutiao, the information platform of ByteDance, in less than one week after his departure from Baidu. The name of the company was not disclosed in the court documents made available to the public.

Baidu said its formal contract with the employer has clearly stated that a person cannot join any Baidu competitors or competitor-related companies within 1 year of the person’s resignation. To compensate for any loss incurred by the obligation of the non-compete agreement will have cost, Baidu will pay the person monthly.

Baidu said Kang claimed the compensation offering for 9 months without disclosing where he was working. The company also suspected that Kang had leaked confidential business information to ByteDance. An RMB 1.4 million violation fine was further demanded by Baidu.

This afternoon, Beijing Labor Arbitration Commission (北京市劳动仲裁委员会) decided to back the plaintiff’s charge and ordered Kang to pay RMB 830,000 to Baidu. The amount includes the fraudulent compensation claim, violation fine, and other compensation. Kang will have to separately pay any relevant legal services fees for this lawsuit. The non-disclosure and non-compete agreements Kang signed with Baidu is meanwhile still considered legally valid.

This is not Baidu’s first legal attempt regarding labor disputes and suspected losses of corporate assets including intellectual property. On June 20, Baidu sued Li Chenggang (李成刚), another former employer, also for violating the non-disclosure and non-compete agreements. Baidu demanded Li to pay around RMB 1 million for compensation and as punishment. The case is still undergoing legal processes for a final judgment decision.

Last year, Baidu sued Wang Jing, founder and former CEO of autonomous driving startup JingChi, for illegally leaking Baidu’s technological information. In February 2018, Wang Jing stepped down from JingChi. The startup company said the resignation was due to Wang’s family reasons.

As competition intensifies, corporate rights protection methods used by Chinese companies are increasingly shifting to the legal realm, for consistent judgment standards and fair decisions. Tencent, Douyin, and ofo have all applied for legal support for business disputes and any controversial competition issues in the broader industry.

This time, Baidu’s wining the case will set up a landmark standard for talent transfers among different leading tech companies. However, the problem of intellectual property theft and the protection of core confidential information cannot be solved with just legal restrictions on employment procedures. The industry and the country still have a very long way to go.