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Apple gains footing in court feud with ex-executive turned rival

A former prime chip engineer at Apple Inc might have a tough time shaking off a breach-of-contract lawsuit the iPhone maker filed in opposition to him after he give up and launched his personal processor firm.

Gerard Williams III helped lead growth of the chips used to energy iPhones throughout his decade as a platform architect with Apple earlier than he based Nuvia Inc final yr. Williams contends a provision within the contract he had with Apple conflicts with a California legislation that permits staff to develop new companies whereas they’re employed elsewhere.

However in a tentative ruling rejecting his request to toss the swimsuit, Santa Clara County Superior Courtroom Decide Mark Pierce mentioned the legislation doesn’t allow an worker “to plan and put together to create a aggressive enterprise previous to termination if the worker does so on their employer’s time and with the employer’s sources.”

The choose additionally dismissed a declare by Williams that Apple invaded his privateness by reviewing textual content messages he wrote to coworkers that had been important of the corporate. Williams sought to have these texts excluded as proof within the swimsuit. Pierce disagreed. “There aren’t any allegations within the grievance establishing that the textual content messages had been obtained as the results of eavesdropping upon or recording a confidential communication, ” he wrote.

Pierce sided with Williams in rejecting Apple’s bid for punitive damages, saying the corporate hasn’t proven that the engineer deliberately tried to hurt his former employer by being disloyal.

Whereas the ruling doesn’t tackle the deserves of Apple’s claims, it should permit the corporate to proceed with pretrial information-sharing if the choose makes it last.

Claude Stern, an lawyer for Williams, plans to contest the choose’s findings at a listening to on Jan 21 in San Jose. Stern mentioned he’ll argue that Williams can’t be sued merely for developing with an concept for a brand new enterprise whereas at Apple, versus taking innovations he labored on that belong to his earlier employer.

The lawyer additionally famous the choose’s conclusion that Apple’s mental property settlement with Williams “arguably” violates California legislation by forbidding him from soliciting the corporate’s staff even after he left his job.

“Gerard steadfastly denies any of the allegations within the grievance, ” Stern mentioned in a telephone interview.

Williams left Apple in February earlier than beginning Nuvia that very same month with different former Apple builders. He was “chief architect” for Apple’s chips for its cell units. His new firm is growing processors to be used in knowledge centres. In November, Nuvia exited stealth mode and introduced funding price US$53mil (RM215.18mil). – Bloomberg

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