SINGAPORE: Shopee Singapore took Mr Lim Teck Yong to court in an attempt to stop him from working at ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, due to an alleged breach of a non-competition clause.
However, Justice Kwek Mean Luck on Wednesday (Jan 31) called the case “very weak” and added that there are “serious doubts over the possibility of Shopee’s eventual success” in its claims, and dismissed the e-commerce company’s request for injunctions.
Mr Lim worked for Shopee for eight years before giving his notice in May 2023 and leaving at the end of August. He went on to join ByteDance on Sept 11, 2023.
TikTok operates an online shopping platform called TikTok Shop. Officially launched in September 2023, it has been gaining in popularity.
Mr Lim has been working at TikTok Shop’s governance and experience team.
Mr Lim held several managerial positions in the years he was with Shopee, at its headquarters as head of regional operations, senior director of regional operations, and executive director of regional operations; head of regional people team for Shopee; and finally as executive director, head of operations for Shopee Brazil.
Upon joining Shopee in 2015, he signed a Restrictive Covenants Agreement (RCA) with a non-solicitation and non-competition clause and an Employee Confidentiality Agreement (ECA), reported CNA.
These agreements said that Mr Lim would not seek employment from any of Shopee’s rivals within 12 months of departing from the e-commerce giant.
After learning that Mr Lim was working with ByteDance, Shopee Singapore sent him a letter through its lawyers. But Mr Lim said no to leaving his new employer and handing in written undertakings that he would comply with the non-competition restriction and related obligations, and then Shopee mounted a legal bid against him.
Shopee’s lawyers said that Mr Lim had obtained information regarding the e-commerce firm’s strategies and priorities for all markets when he attended meetings during his time with Shopee.
But Justice Kwek, who said he would not have granted the injunctions Shopee requested, noted that following the counsels’ line of reasoning, Mr Lim would not be allowed to find employment in any markets where Shopee operates.
“In effect, Lim would simply be restrained from working for any competitor of Shopee who had been in Shopee’s markets. I have serious doubts that it could be said that there is a serious question if this would be regarded as reasonable as between the parties or reasonable in the interest of the public,” he said.
“In this case, as set out above, Shopee’s case is very weak. The status quo is that Lim has already started work for ByteDance. This would be disturbed if the interim injunction is granted.” /TISG