In a highly unusual and perhaps foolhardy move, financially troubled development tool company Borland International Inc has filed a lawsuit in the California Superior Court against Microsoft Corp, alleging unfair competition. Borland’s suit charges Microsoft with recruiting and hiring Borland employees for the specific purpose of damaging its ability to compete with Microsoft in the development tools market, and so slow the company’s financial turnaround attempt. The past 30 months have seen 34 of Borland’s most prominent software architects, engineers and marketing managers making the move from its Scotts Valley, California head office to the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington, the company states. Many are claimed by Borland to have simply shifted to mirror image positions at Microsoft from the ones they held at their previous employer. The complaint states that these hiring offers have been made for wrongful purposes: to acquire Borland confidential information and to inhibit [its] competitive position. Borland chief executive officer Delbert Yocam calls the brain drain north a systematic and unfair effort to impair [this] company’s ability to compete. The lawsuit seeks unspecified financial damages and an immediate end to Microsoft’s unfair activities in targeting Borland employees, actions the company’s lawyers claim contravene Section 17200 of the California Business & Professions Code. Borland, founded in 1983, only last week (CI No 3,151) reported appalling losses for its fiscal 1997 – $108m net loss for the year on revenue down year-on-year to $151.4m, with revenue down 47% in the fourth quarter alone. Microsoft did somewhat better in its last full year – its 1996 fiscal showed last June 30 it at $8.6bn revenue and $2.2bn net profit. Is this a desperate attempt to throw the spotlight off the damaged company’s sluggish performance, or does Yocam really think he has a defendable case? Given the tortuous history of anti-computer company lawsuits (US Govt versus IBM, US Govt versus Microsoft, kind of, Lotus versus Microsoft, Apple versus Microsoft, etc) he can’t realistically hope to fight off the whole of the Bill Gates Borg collective this fashion. Probably the only winners here will be the lawyers.