Back in April, we reported on a civil lawsuit against Apple, Google, Intel, Pixar, Intuit, and Lucasfilm for all allegedly engaging in anti-poaching agreements where each of the above-listed companies agreed not to hire employees from any of the other companies.
In Silicon Valley, where engineering talent is king, keeping talented employees from jumping ship to rival firms is a top priority. The lawsuit, however, claims that in implementing these agreements, employees are often held hostage to the extent that their job opportunities may be limited as a result.
Despite efforts to have the case dismissed, US District Judge Lucy Koh ruled this past February that the case would continue pending an amended complaint from the plaintiffs. That complaint has since been amended and Koh has ruled that the case can proceed.
With trial set for June 2013, documents from the case are starting to leak out and we’re starting to see some really interesting to stuff.
Say, for instance, an email from Steve Jobs to former Palm CEO Ed Colligan where Jobs threatened Palm with legal action if they were to continue hiring Apple employees. Jobs of course wanted Palm to stop hiring Apple employees completely.
Colligan wrote an email to Jobs which read:
Your proposal that we agree that neither company will hire the other’s employees, regardless of the individual’s desires, is not only wrong, it is likely illegal.[…]Palm doesn’t target other companies-we look for the best people we can find. l’d hope the same could be said about Apple1s practices. However, during the last year or so, as Apple geared up to compete with Palm in the phone space, Apple hired at least 2% of Palm’s workforce. To put it in perspective, had Palm done the same, we’d have hired 300 folks from Apple. Instead, to my knowledge, we’ve hired just three.
Jobs fired back and said that Palm was actively recruiting Apple employees based on information from former Apple employees Jon Rubenstein and Fred Anderson.
Jobs also wrote:
[…] I’m sure you realize the asymmetry in the financial resources of our respective companies when you say: “We will both just end up paying a lot of lawyers a lot of money.”
Just for the record, when Siemens sold their handset business to BenQ they didn’t sell them their essential patents but rather just gave them a license. The patents they did sell to BenQ are not that great. We looked at them ourselves when they were for sale. I guess you guys felt differently and bought them. We are not concerned about them at all. My advice is to take a look at our patent portfolio before you make a final decision here.
In a declaration, Colligan noted that he nor Palm weren’t intimidated by Jobs’ veiled threats.
In any event, Apple CEO Tim Cook was recently ordered to sit for a 4-hour deposition as it relates to the ongoing suit.