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Apple poached battery manufacturer employees for own project, lawsuit alleges

http://appleinsider.com/articles/15...attery-manufacturer-employees-for-own-project

A new lawsuit filed in early February claims Apple poached workers with proprietary information vital to battery manufacturer A123 Systems' operations in an attempt to build out its own competing battery division in California.

ccording to a complaint removed to a Massachusetts district court, spotted by Law360, Apple poached five employees from battery maker A123, specifically key members of the company's advanced System Venture Technologies Division.

Described by A123 as a technology incubator tasked with accelerating "game changing technologies," Venture Technologies was headed up by CTO Mujeeb Ijaz, who reportedly left the company for Apple "under suspicious circumstances" last June. Four former staff members, Don Dafoe, Michael Erickson, Depeng Wang and Indrajeet Thorat, also worked in the advanced energy storage division and left A123 within the last month.

As noted in the filing, Apple has been conducting "an aggressive campaign to poach employees of A123 and to otherwise raid A123's business" since June of 2014. At particular issue are non-disclosure, non-competition and non-solicitation agreements, which Ijaz supposedly breached by recruiting one or more of his former colleagues after joining Apple.

With the staff departures, A123 alleges it has shut down individual projects assigned to each worker for lack of suitable replacements.

In addition to the five A123 workers, the suit alleges Apple has targeted employees from other companies who have knowledge of the firm's battery technology, including staff from LG, Panasonic, Samsung, Toshiba and Johnson Controls. Ijaz in particular allegedly reached out to employees at A123 collaborator SiNode Systems, a research and development firm focusing on lithium ion battery technology.

Aside from the usual monetary damages and legal fees, A123 is requesting the court enjoin Ijaz and the four other former employees from working at Apple or any other competing company for one year and bar Apple from hiring other employees from A123's Venture Technologies division.
 

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This is an interesting development. Is this something special to the US?
Is it not allowed to hire who ever you are willing to have them working for you and who's salary you can afford?

I'd suspect, failing the law earliest starts, as soon you are using the protected insights!?
 

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Is it not allowed to hire who ever you are willing to have them working for you and who's salary you can afford?
In general, yes, you are welcome to hire whomever you choose. Apple likely did not break any laws by hiring these people. *However*, it is also common in the US for key employees to sign binding contracts as part of the offer of employment not to disclose company secrets even after they leave the company, not to try to actively hire away other people from the company for a defined period of time, and/or they agree not to work for a competitive company after ending their employment for a period of time. These are the Non-Disclosure, Non-Solicit and Non-Compete clauses mentioned above.

It may be a breach of contract for the individual employees to leave A123 and go to Apple and to take company secrets and A123 intellectual property with them. Mujeeb Ijaz further may be in breach if A123 can demonstrate that he induced others to leave A123 to join Apple. As a result, these employees themselves could be subject to lawsuits for damages. In addition, if Apple knew of these agreements they too may also be liable as it can be argued that Apple knowingly conspired to breach a lawful contract.

The level of enforcement and individual worker's rights vary from State to State in the US, so the particular state where the employee was working for A123, is now working for Apple and where the legal action was filed all influence the possible outcome. Having said that, I doubt this will go to trial. My guess is that there will be a settlement of some sort, including a provision that nobody admits fault.

Brent
 

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Since Wainxiang owns Fisker, and Wainxiang owns A123, and the hope was that A123 would continue making new and improved batteries for present and future Fisker cars, this seems like a bad development for us.

On the other hand, word was that A123 wasn't doing much of anything for current owners anyway, so bottom line is: hope Apple does a better job of developing the technology, and that they are willing to share (but sharing isn't really an Apple thing to do).
 

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When your stock value is over 700b , sales 200b and a profit of 42b -- 250k for a few employees is a rounding error - man its good to be apple.
 

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Agreed: Apple has so much money it doesn't even know what to do with it, which is why I'm surprised they didn't throw a few "apple pennies" to scoop up Fisker.

Even more surprising: TSLA stock is NOT being crushed by this news. To me it would be devastating if my target demographic (wealthy people who buy apple stuff) will have another choice in just 5 years (right when the 'type 3' car should come out also).

After seeing pictures of the GM Bolt (their cheaper upcoming electric - not a typo), I ruled it out as a serious Tesla competitor, but if Apple is joining the fray with their limitless cash, watch out below tesla stock!
 

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Agreed: Apple has so much money it doesn't even know what to do with it, which is why I'm surprised they didn't throw a few "apple pennies" to scoop up Fisker.

Even more surprising: TSLA stock is NOT being crushed by this news. To me it would be devastating if my target demographic (wealthy people who buy apple stuff) will have another choice in just 5 years (right when the 'type 3' car should come out also).

After seeing pictures of the GM Bolt (their cheaper upcoming electric - not a typo), I ruled it out as a serious Tesla competitor, but if Apple is joining the fray with their limitless cash, watch out below tesla stock!
Being in the IT business it does not suprise me that Apple passed on Fisker. IT folks somehow feel other people stuff is inferior and tend to do it in house becuase they feel they have the best teams. In Apple case I think they have a culture to "create" a need verse "fill" one. Fisker was to visible and not enough mystery to create the WOW factor and usilbity that Apple is knwo for. Like it or not, Apple products start treads and they do it with finesse with a BIG F :heart:
 

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Agreed: Apple has so much money it doesn't even know what to do with it, which is why I'm surprised they didn't throw a few "apple pennies" to scoop up Fisker.

Even more surprising: TSLA stock is NOT being crushed by this news. To me it would be devastating if my target demographic (wealthy people who buy apple stuff) will have another choice in just 5 years (right when the 'type 3' car should come out also).

After seeing pictures of the GM Bolt (their cheaper upcoming electric - not a typo), I ruled it out as a serious Tesla competitor, but if Apple is joining the fray with their limitless cash, watch out below tesla stock!
Why success may be harder for Tesla (and for Fisker as well)

https://autos.yahoo.com/blogs/motor...uccess-may-be-harder-than-ever-211558551.html

Both companies have more than electric cars to compete against, and both business models also depend on high gas prices
 

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Good article @Eric Karma, thanks for posting. It will be interesting to see what model ultimately prevails (e.g. ICE, Fuel Cell, BEV, PHEV, etc). My guess is there will continue to be lots of choices, rather than "a winner", as choices are ultimately what consumers want.

While Fisker had it's issues, the PHEV design is a more gradual approach to a non-gas world. Personally, I think PHEVs need the following to get more mainstream adoption:

1) Good looks - the mainstream won't adopt a car that "looks funny". In most cases, people want to drive a car they like looking at (or that they want to be seen in).
2) Range - if the battery pack can provide somewhere in the 150-200 mile range this will provide more global climate benefits. Since lots of people drive in cities or short distances between cities, this would cover a vast majority of daily driving. Then folks who travel longer distances leverage the ICE in the PHEV for easy range extension.
3) Faster Charging - while increased EV range reduces this requirement, people also want convenience. I like driving both my Volt and Karma on battery as much as I can, and I really don't like waiting 4-6 hours for these cars to fully re-charge.

Regardless, I look forward to seeing how things play out.
 
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