Apple raids battery developer, poaches employees, builds a new battery research division

Apple raids battery developer, poaches employees, builds a new battery research division
A123 Systems, a developer of li-ion batteries and energy storage solutions, intends to take Apple to court on the grounds of employee poaching. The company lost five of its employees to the Cupertino giant, three of which were PhD project heads and were, apparently, tasked with developing some new, battery-related technology. A123 claims that it's having a hard time finding new staff, qualified enough to be able to replace the missing developers.

The employees were under contracts with noncompete, nonsolicit, and nondisclosure obligations, however, post their leaving of the battery manufacturer, A123 was able to find emails from Apple headhunters on the former workers' computers – this led A123 to believe that "unfair competition" is in play, as the poaching of talent has, apparently, crippled the manufacturer's efforts.

What would Apple need with said engineers? Well, rumor has it that Cupertino is building a new battery development division. To what end, it's too early to say, but the three things that we could speculate on, from the top of our heads, are – better iPhone life, improved Apple Watch battery (which seems to have been an issue during development), or possibly something to do with the rumored Apple-developed electric car – but that's a bit out there.

source: Law360 via iMore

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35 Comments

1. mistercarter

Posts: 360; Member since: Sep 01, 2011

if they were getting $5k a month and Apple gives them $20k a month, who would not do the same?

4. Captain_Doug

Posts: 1037; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

If the company had them under contract, then the employee's would have needed to find a way out of it first. There's definitely some shenanigans here.

5. tedkord

Posts: 17512; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Anyone who signed a non compete and non disclosure contract, in which case their knowledge would be useless in a battery development business. The funny thing is this comes from one of the companies that threatened other companies against taking their employees, and entered into illegal no poach agreements.

11. Napalm_3nema

Posts: 2236; Member since: Jun 14, 2013

It's a company that agreed with other tech companies, like Google, not to poach employees. It was corporate collusion. As for the contract stipulations, Apple doesn't supply car companies with batteries or compete directly with A123 and those employees are working in California, so no-solicit, non-compete, and non-disclosure won't apply. If Apple was headquartered in one of the two states where A123 does business, they might have a leg to stand on, but they are not. This gets tossed pretty quickly.

16. vincelongman

Posts: 5810; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Yea, to be fair all business do this E.g. Samsung hired the former top engineer at TSMC Which is why Samsung managed to get to 14nm before TSMC got to 16nm Most businesses only care about profits Hence why they all use cheap manufacturing in Asia and avoid paying taxes where possible

22. tedkord

Posts: 17512; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

State doesn't matter, the employees signed the non-compete and probably non disclosure. They can't take their expertise from A123 to any other company.

23. Salazzi

Posts: 537; Member since: Feb 17, 2014

As much as you wish Apple was in the wrong, it isn't the case. Napalm said it pretty good. Apple isn't a competitor to A123, thus this will get tossed out quite quick. If a lawyer leaves a firm, having signed a no-compete, he/she is not allowed to go over to any other law firm until the stipulated and agreed upon time runs out. Had these employees gone to other battery manufacturers, this would most definitely be an infringement. What we are talking about is in essence, a lawyer going from working in a law firm, to working as an investment banker (ha, Suits reference).. a no-compete doesn't bar them from doing so.

28. VZWuser76

Posts: 4974; Member since: Mar 04, 2010

Even though they don't currently compete with each other, that doesn't mean they won't in the near future. Otherwise, why would Apple have need of them? A person who specializes in car battery technology isn't going to be much help in dealing with mobile devices. And with talk of Apple possibly working on a project involving a car, that could enter into it.

26. Napalm_3nema

Posts: 2236; Member since: Jun 14, 2013

Actually, the state does matter. They were working in a state that recognizes no-compete contracts, but California does not (their new state).

29. VZWuser76

Posts: 4974; Member since: Mar 04, 2010

That's what my brother thought. He moved to my state with a non compete hanging over his head from his former boss. Our state doesn't recognize non competes that originated in this state, but they do recognize them from states that do. Now maybe California isn't the same, but it may not be as simple as you're suggesting.

30. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

But they hired these guys so they can. Which is the point you seem to be missing. If Apple is building a car, they took these guys because these guys have knowledge and potential could use their ideas they are going to use with A123 and Apple could use them and simply drive the older company out the market which is already on its last leg. You should rally go read the sorce and not PA's spin on it. That is why many companies have these agreements. If they were leaving to make batts for phone, then yes they wouldn't be competing and thus its ok. But if they were hired to make the same type of product they were going to make for their original employer, then this is a problem. if you knew business you would understand.

33. Napalm_3nema

Posts: 2236; Member since: Jun 14, 2013

I did read the source, and the legal experts are very explicit on what constitutes competition for a non-compete clause.

2. Tritinum

Posts: 471; Member since: May 06, 2014

well, apple does take cheap shots and no one can deny that.

31. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Fanbois do!

3. Denco

Posts: 118; Member since: Mar 25, 2014

First, Apple destroyed that Sapphire glass-making manufacturer. Now this. What manner of corporate bully is this?

6. Kruze

Posts: 1285; Member since: Dec 30, 2014

Apple is using bully and communism together. So, Apple is the true tech communist bully.

25. iLovesarcasm

Posts: 589; Member since: Oct 20, 2014

Exactly, watch the Jobs movie and you will see how bad the culture of Apple is.

12. Napalm_3nema

Posts: 2236; Member since: Jun 14, 2013

The same sapphire glass manufacturer whose CEO is under investigation by the SEC and whose company could not deliver sapphire glass screens in the yield and quality they were contractually obligated to deliver?

24. Salazzi

Posts: 537; Member since: Feb 17, 2014

You know, these Fandroids are pretty darn stupid, for all their talk of Apple fans being dumb sheep. "Baaaah Baaaaah I hate Apple Baaaah".

27. VZWuser76

Posts: 4974; Member since: Mar 04, 2010

I can't speak for anyone else, but I don't like Apple from my time as a former customer of theirs.

32. Salazzi

Posts: 537; Member since: Feb 17, 2014

And that's perfectly fine. I just think people should stop trying to belittle other people for their choices. 95% of the ridiculous belittling comments, I see coming from the Android camp. Everyone has a preference. I have had 3x more android devices than I have of iOS devices, and my preference still lies with Apple. Each person has their reasons for preferring a product or OS. I just think they shouldn't use their preference as the viewpoint through which they judge everyone else, or to toss around unwarranted hate simply due to difference. PS- I've long despised Samsung after I had bought my first smartphone with them. I paid $350 for a phone on contract, only to find out my software was outdated by a few versions of Android from the get-go, AND that they wouldn't be updating it ever. Felt completely shafted. I don't wish them ill or their users though, at least not anymore. I still have a distaste but I do hope the company produces more compelling products. I just might buy one soon enough (Note 4 was fantastic IMO)

34. VZWuser76

Posts: 4974; Member since: Mar 04, 2010

I agree it's a problem, but 95% is way off. I'd put it at around half is Android users, and the other half split between iOS, WP, & BB. Then you also have in Android the smaller camps of Samsung, HTC, LG, Moto, Sony, etc.

35. Salazzi

Posts: 537; Member since: Feb 17, 2014

Perhaps you're right. I guess I'm only speaking from my experiences, which can be far from the actual number.

7. Iodine

Posts: 1515; Member since: Jun 19, 2014

So it's time to expect a bigger battery in the iPhone than in the another galaxy ?

15. vincelongman

Posts: 5810; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Nope, introducing the new iPhone Now 4mm thin Thinner than thinner Everything changes with bendability Unfortunately, I would not surprise me at since the OEMs love thinness, especially Apple, Samsung and Sony

8. Loubielou

Posts: 603; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

Samsung will make Apple panic with the Battery functions on the Galaxy S6,Apply will employing some more agency workers and not paying them correctly,Apple never seems to offer is buyers better batterylife

17. Martin_Cooper

Posts: 1774; Member since: Jul 30, 2013

Samsung will make Apple panic? The IP5 had a horrible battery and people still preferred it over S4 which had miles better battery. Let me tell you a secret. If a phone can make a full working day(8 hours usually) then its fine and people wont care. If anyone is in panic thats Sammy who just lost 50% of China market share and from 1st spot went to 5th in just 1 year.

9. jgilk1

Posts: 10; Member since: Feb 19, 2015

was there not a post here like a few weeks ago about China requesting apple to hand over there source code to the Chinese government for possible securities violations now some battery manufacture in China is screaming foul.. Apple is stealing our employees... My I smell fish sticks

10. RebelwithoutaClue unregistered

According to a lot of sites, the engineers were specialized in car batteries. So probably for their Apple car project http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/19/us-apple-autos-lawsuit-idUSKBN0LN04Y20150219?feedType=RSS&feedName=technologyNews

13. kurama.

Posts: 85; Member since: Sep 13, 2014

They rich because there greedy

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