A123 Systems Sues Apple for Poaching Car Battery Engineers

Apple has been hiring engineers from vehicle battery designer A123 Systems, and the company has filed a lawsuit alleging the iPhone and iPad maker violated employee anti-compete agreements. The employees all came from A123's advanced energy storage division and were working on what the company called game changing technologies.

A123 Systems sues Apple for hiring its car battery design teamA123 Systems sues Apple for hiring its car battery design team

A123 named Apple along with the five employees who left for the Cupertino company in the lawsuit. The filing said Apple first hired away their CFO Mujeeb Ijaz, who then brought on board four other employees over an eight month window. The five were so critical to the projects they worked on that ABC123 had to shut them down.

Apparently the employees had all signed non-compete agreements, along with non-disclosure and non-solicitation agreements when A123 hired them. The company is using those agreements as the basis for its lawsuit against them and Apple.

A123 went on to say Apple has been recruiting from SiNode Systems, another battery developer it collaborates with and is familiar with its technologies. Other employees have been hired away from A123 clients with knowledge of the company's technologies, too, such as Samsung, Toshiba, LG, and Panasonic.

Since A123 focuses on vehicle batteries, Apple's interest in the employees it recruited are likely now part of the team working on the company's car project. Word surfaced this month that Apple is developing its own electric-powered car, which will need some serious battery technology to keep it running.

Apple has also hired employees away from electric car maker Tesla, as well as a top level executive in charge of research and development at Mercedes-Benz—all very compelling evidence to support the idea that Apple has serious plans to shake up the automotive industry.

A123 Systems filed its lawsuit in Massachusetts and is asking the court to block its former employees from working for Apple for at least a year, to prevent Apple from hiring away any more of its staff, and for damages and legal fees.

[Thanks to Law360 for the heads up]