Apple sues former iPhone chip designer for breach of contract

Joanna Estrada
December 11, 2019

Apple claims that Williams founded his own chip-design company Nuvia while he was still working at Apple and that he recruited Apple employees to work at the startup.

The startup is armed with a who's-who of semiconductor engineers and enterprise software experts. Williams also denied directly soliciting other Apple employees for opportunities at Nuvia, stating that in "Apple's theory, if one Apple employee speaks to (or texts) another employee conveying criticisms of Apple's strategies or decisions, that discussion is itself a purportedly unlawful "solicitation" to leave Apple".

Apple had initially claimed that Williams breached an intellectual property agreement by engaging in business activities that were competitive with or directly linked with Apple's business activities. Employees at the startup have also worked at Google and Intel, in addition to Apple. The company furthermore charges that the chips Nuvia is designing are "tied" to technologies that Williams developed while working on CPUs for iPhones and iPads.

Last month, three former Apple chip execs launched a new company called Nuvia to take on established silicon giants like AMD and Intel on the data center market.

Last month, his team hit back with a counter argument [PDF] alleging that Apple hasn't a legal leg to stand on.

Nuvia, on the other hand, reportedly says that "Apple, an early beneficiary of the creative forces that formed and continue to drive Silicon Valley, has filed this lawsuit in a desperate effort to shut down lawful employment by a former employee.To further intimidate any current Apple employee who might dare consider leaving Apple, Apple's complaint shows that it is monitoring and examining its employees' phone records and text messages, in a stunning and disquieting invasion of privacy". Apple says that Williams III was likely planning the company and recruiting employees while still at Apple.

"Thus, on the face of the Complaint, Apple's collection of its employees' text messages runs afoul of [California law], and the messages can not be relied upon as evidence".

Nuvia Inc co-founders John Bruno, Gerard Williams III and Manu Gulati. "Indeed, the Complaint is entirely devoid of allegations of consent or of facts supportive of an inference of consent", the counterargument reads.

Neither Apple nor Nuvia had any comment to offer beyond the filings.

The case, Apple v Williams, was filed [PDF, annotations our own] in August though paperwork is still flying between the parties.

It'll be some time until there's any conclusion to this case - a hearing is scheduled for January 21, 2020.

What next after Netezza?

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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