Tuesday, December 10, 2019 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Apple Suing Former A-series Chip Lead

Shaun Nichols (Hacker News):

In a complaint filed in the Santa Clara Superior Court, in California, USA, and seen by The Register, the Cupertino goliath claimed Gerard Williams, CEO of semiconductor upstart Nuvia, broke his Apple employment agreement while setting up his new enterprise.

Williams – who oversaw the design of Apple’s custom high-performance mobile Arm-compatible processors for nearly a decade – quit the iGiant in February to head up the newly founded Nuvia.

Apple’s lawsuit alleged Williams hid the fact he was preparing to leave Apple to start his own business while still working at Apple, and drew on his work in steering iPhone processor design to create his new company. Crucially, Tim Cook & Co’s lawyers claimed he tried to lure away staff from his former employer. All of this was, allegedly, in breach of his contract.

Ben Lovejoy:

Williams is fighting the lawsuit, arguing that the alleged ‘breach of contract’ claim is unenforceable and that Apple illegally monitored his text messages.

Presumably it wouldn’t be illegal if the recipients of his messages gave them to Apple. So it sounds like he’s alleging that Apple directly accessed them somehow.

Previously:

8 Comments

Am I the only one who thinks it's insane that it there is even a chance that what Williams did is illegal? He was hired by Apple because he's good at X. Now he's creating his own company to do X, and he's hiring people away from Apple. Clearly, he was doing well while at Apple even as he was preparing to start his own company, otherwise Apple would have fired him. So how is any of this in any way something Apple can sue him over?

I get that he probably signed a non-compete agreement, but these should themselves be illegal.

I read the complaint and he is not specifically saying Apple intercepted his texts, but that all parties to a text have to consent to disclosure, and he clearly didn’t. The most likely explanation is that one of the recipients shared it with Apple.

Apple’s allegations are clearly in contradiction with California’s strong prohibition on non-competes. I don’t know about non-solicitation. I would guess Apple will lose but it’s not about winning, it’s about harassment.

The counter-complaint says 9 talented employees left Apple. That does not bode well for future A series SOCs maintaining the blistering rate of progress they enjoyed so far.

“ iGiant”, really?

Sören Nils Kuklau

The counter-complaint says 9 talented employees left Apple. That does not bode well for future A series SOCs maintaining the blistering rate of progress they enjoyed so far.

Maybe, but maybe not.

Apple has thousands of chip-related hardware engineers alone: among others, they bought Anobit (200 employees), P.A. Semi (150), Intrinsity (100), portions of Dialog (300), and portions of Intel Mobile Communications (another 2,200 employees). Some will have left, and some will have joined, but either way, “9 talented employees” is not a big number.

@Lukas My understanding is that he was working on convincing coworkers to leave with him while still working at Apple. You can make a case for why that shouldn't be banned, but it is a completely different thing than trying to convince people to follow you after you've left.

@Lukas It’s weird because it doesn’t sound like they are suing him for stealing Apple trade secrets, just the poaching. Just because that was in the contract doesn’t mean it’s enforceable. This must be extremely common.

@Fazal I read somewhere that the prohibition on non-competes doesn't apply to management. But, yeah, worst case for Apple is that they sent a message.

If the recipients shared the texts, wouldn’t it be them, not Apple, at fault?

>My understanding is that he was working on convincing coworkers to leave
>with him while still working at Apple

Did he do it during work hours, when Apple paid him? If not, then I don't see the issue.

This reminds a bit of this suit filed by a company whose name looked a bit like "Apple, Inc":

https://www.nytimes.com/1986/01/18/business/steven-jobs-settles-suit-filed-by-apple.html

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