IBM is not letting go without a fight. The computer maker has filed a lawsuit against one of its former top-level executives who left the company to work at Apple.
Mark Papermaster, a server expert and vice president of IBM's blade development unit, is slated to start at Apple in just a few weeks but his knowledge of IBM trade secrets may stop him from joining the maker of Macs.
IBM, which spends billions on research each year, is basing its lawsuit filed in US District Court in Manhattan on Oct. 22 on a non-competition agreement Papermaster signed in 2006 which states he would not work for any competitor up to one year after his employment ended with IBM. The complaint also cites IBM trade secrets as another reason for stopping the move to work alongside with Apple's chief executive, Steve Jobs.
The no-compete document, in which Papermaster signed, says the executive acknowledges that IBM engages in an intensely competitive environment and will not associate with or engage in any business enterprise for one year work for any competitor and for two years not lure any other IBM employee to a competitor.
"Mr. Papermaster's employment by Apple is a violation of his agreement with IBM against working for a competitor should he leave IBM," said IBM in a statement to CNET, who broke the story. "We will vigorously pursue this case in court."
The 26-year veteran is also a member of the company's Integration and Values Team, a group of more than 300 senior managers. The IVT group is responsible for IBM's most significant and challenging issues, according to court documents. If those issues are shared with competitors, IBM will lose its upper hand.
IBM's work in microprocessors and servers maybe the crux behind the lawsuit. IBM states in court documents that Papermaster's years working in its Systems and Technology Group armed the executive with knowledge of IBMs power and architecture behind servers and microprocessors manufactured by IBM.
Papermaster's knowledge of "power" and knowledge of blade servers may give Apple the upper hand in the business of servers.
"The confidential information to which Mr. Papermaster has become privy based on his membership in the I&VT and employment with the company represents the product of IBM's substantial investment in research and innovation and is critical to IBM's competitive success," reads court documents.
IBM said it competes directly with Apple with server products. Apple's Xserver line of servers compete with IBM's System x and BladeCenter lines of small servers.
Although IBM no makes personal computers since its sale of that business to Lenovo in 2005, the company still continues to sell personal computers under an agreement with Lenovo.
The greatest sticking point, however, is future competition, according to IBM because in 2008 Apple acquired P.A. Semi, a direct competitor of IBM's. IBM further said that because of Apple's acquisition of P.A. Semi and hiring of Papermaster, it believes Apple intends to design microprocessors for handheld devices.