High-tech firms could face legal action for breach of confidentiality agreements if they poach staff from competitors.
US-based analyst Gartner Group has warned IT companies against recruiting staff on the basis of their knowledge of a competitors' strategy, rather than their skills and experience.
It advised firms to force new staff to sign contracts which state they are not breaching confidentiality agreements. The problem is likely to be particularly acute for e-commerce specialists.
The caution comes in the wake of a US case involving business software provider SAP and a competitor, Siebel.
SAP last month brought a case against Siebel claiming it had poached two of its executives. It alleged the staff took confidential knowledge of SAP's strategy.
Sue Nixon, head of the employment law department at Hammond Suddards, said similar cases were likely in the UK.
She added that the risk of legal action was increased because skilled IT staff were reluctant to sign agreements, such as restricted covenants, which hinder their future job prospects.
Restricted covenants state that an employee cannot join a competitor. Nixon said e-commerce firms are having difficulties drafting these agreements because the huge scope of the Internet makes it hard to define the restrictions.