Apple Asks Federal Court to Dismiss Employee Poaching Lawsuit

Electric car battery vendor A123 sued Apple earlier in February alleging that Apple has been illegally "poaching" its employees. Apple wants the suit to go away.

Apple, A123 Systems, electric cars, employee poaching

Apple is asking a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit from electric car battery vendor A123 Systems that alleges that Apple has been methodically and illegally hiring away engineers from A123 in ways that have been damaging to the battery company.

Apple filed the motion to dismiss the lawsuit on March 10 in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, arguing that the battery company has not provided enough evidence to make its case, according to a Reuters report. Earlier in February, A123 sued Apple and five former A123 employees, arguing that the computer and smartphone maker had been engaged in efforts to hire away its workers as part of a raid on its workforce.

Apple has been working to blunt those claims in court. "Apple hiring five A123 employees, without more, does not indicate improper means or motive to support a claim for tortious interference or 'raiding,'" Apple said in a response to the lawsuit, according to the report.

More time was requested by Apple last week to respond to the A123 lawsuit while the two companies were allegedly discussing a possible settlement to the case, the report continued. The status of those discussions is not yet known.

The lawsuit by A123 against Apple was revealed earlier this month when reports began circulating that Apple was interested in spending some of its $178 billion in cash reserves on a project to design and produce its own electric cars, possibly by as soon as 2020, according to an earlier eWEEK report.

That project, which reports indicate is in the midst of a prototype phase, means that Apple has been seeking and hiring experts in the field of electric cars and the special batteries that power them. Some of those specialized hires have come by recruiting employees from other companies, including A1213 Systems, Tesla and Toyota. Those purported recruitment and hiring efforts by Apple are what resulted in A123 filing its lawsuit, which alleged that Apple embarked on an aggressive campaign in June to poach employees from A123 Systems.

A123, which is based in Livonia, Mich., is a developer and manufacturer of advanced Nanophosphate lithium-ion batteries and energy storage systems for transportation, electric grid and commercial applications, according to the company's Website. A123 Systems filed for bankruptcy in 2012.

Spokespersons for Apple and for A123 Systems could not immediately be reached for comment by eWEEK.

Previous reports have stated that Apple has collected and hired about 200 specialized experts to go to work on its fledgling electric car program as the company continues to diversify its business operations outside its core consumer technology and computer, tablet, smartphone, apps and content businesses.

The deep-pocketed Apple has the money to take on such a huge project. In addition to its large cash reserves, Apple in January announced its best-ever quarter, posting $74.6 billion in revenue and $18 billion in net profits for the first fiscal quarter of 2015 due to a consumer frenzy of sales of its latest iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus smartphones, Mac computers, and apps and more in the company's App Store. That revenue tally is a 30 percent increase from the $57.6 billion in revenue that was posted for the same quarter one year ago, while the $18 billion in net profit is up 37 percent from the $13.1 billion posted in the same quarter one year ago.

Electric cars aren't the only electricity topic on the company's agenda recently. Earlier in February, Apple unveiled its plans to purchase $848 million worth of solar power for its corporate use over 25 years from a solar power facility that is being built in Arizona by First Solar as part of its goal to combat climate change by cutting its reliance on fossil fuels.