Is Apple Poaching Battery Engineers for Automotive Tech?
A Michigan-based maker of lithium-ion batteries has filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that Apple has poached several of its top-level scientists, engineers and technical managers with the goal of developing competing battery technology. The accusation is yet another sign that Apple might be looking to enter the market for electric and/or self-driving cars.
Filed this week in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, the suit by A123 Systems is seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prevent Apple and a former A123 Systems employee from soliciting other employees at the battery company. It also asks the court to order the former employee not to violate the non-disclosure and non-competition agreements he was bound by at A123 Systems.
The lawsuit is the latest indication that the lines between the auto industry and the tech industry are growing ever more blurry. As automobile systems have become increasingly computerized, companies seeking new hires have begun looking more to Silicon Valley. At the same time, tech companies like Google are deep into research on autonomous vehicles.
'Aggressive Campaign To Poach Employees'
According to the lawsuit, A123 Systems LLC v. Apple Inc., Mujeeb Ijaz, Don Dafoe, Michael Erickson, DaPeng Wang and Indrajeet Thorat, the battery-maker says Apple is "systematically hiring away A123's high tech PhD and engineering employees, thereby effectively shutting down various projects/programs at A123. They are doing so in an effort to support Apple's apparent plans to establish a battery division that is similar if not identical to A123's...."
A123 Systems alleges that Apple poached the employees named in the lawsuit, starting with Ijaz, who headed its Venture Technologies division based in Waltham, Massachusetts. The other employees all reported directly to Ijaz and have all begun working for Apple within the past month, according to the suit.
"Upon information and belief, Apple is currently developing a large scale battery division to compete in the very same field as A123," the suit states. "In connection with that development, beginning in or around June of 2014, defendant Apple embarked on an aggressive campaign to poach employees of A123 and to otherwise raid A123's business."
Apple, Tesla also Busy Hiring
A lawyer for A123 Systems said he was "not able to comment at this time." There was no immediate response to a request for comment from Apple.
Apple is not the only company that's been linked recently to aggressive employee recruitment campaigns. An article in Bloomberg Business earlier this month reported that tech whiz Elon Musk's Tesla Motors has hired "at least 150 former Apple employees," while a Reuters story Thursday cited LinkedIn data that shows "Apple has been siphoning up automotive engineers and experts...at a significant pace."
A number of high-tech companies have also been accused of colluding with one another to avoid poaching employees in an effort to keep down salaries. A judge last year rejected a proposed $324.5 million settlement in a 2013 antitrust class action suit against Google, Apple, Intel and Adobe, and a trial date of April 9 is now set in California federal court.
Posted: 2015-02-19 @ 4:24pm PT
Apple is interested in batteries for devices but more importantly for driverless taxis and deliveries. Apple, Google, Uber, and possibly Amazon will go after the autonomous, driverless cars. Every city, small town train station, bus stop, airport, pizza delivery, and a hundred other delivery, from groceries, to dry cleaners. From cab companies, insurance company, auto manufactures and more will be affected.
Today younger generation are not in love with cars, they are in love with their smart phones. No monthly car insurance, payment, maintenance cost, gas and worries about parking or tickets. It will be far cheaper to catch a autonomous driverless ride for a couple of bucks. Apple see the ongoing revenue stream and how to leverage their specialty skills and capital.