BlackBerry maker Research In Motion is seeking a court order preventing Motorola from blocking its former workers from working for RIM. In a complaint filed last week, RIM claims Motorola is engaging in improper competitive practices by unfairly enforcing a nondisclosure and nonsolicitation agreement signed by the two rival cell phone makers in February.
RIM claims in the Dec. 23 complaint filed in a Chicago state court that the agreement expired in August and it is free to hire former Motorola employees. In September, Motorola sued RIM to bar the Canadian firm from hiring any Motorola employees under the terms of the February agreement.
Since May 2007, Motorola has laid off approximately 10,000 workers and plans to cut another 3,000 employees in 2009. Most of the cashiered employees worked in Motorola’s financially bleeding handset unit.
“Motorola’s position shamelessly ignores the fact that Motorola’s massive layoffs, and not the RIM entities, have caused hundreds of Motorola employees to date to seek employment with the RIM entities,” states the RIM complaint.
The complaint adds the claim that Motorola’s actions are preventing RIM “from hiring any Motorola employees, including the thousands of employees Motorola has already fired or will soon fire, without regard for [RIM’s] rights or for the damage this tactic will unfairly inflict on Motorola’s own employees and ex-employees who will be prevented from finding new employment” with RIM.
The filing also notes that RIM “continue[s] to grow and hire new employees” while Motorola is making “massive layoffs of thousands of its employees in an effort to cut costs within its faltering wireless communication devices businesses.”
Neither RIM nor Motorola was available for comment on the complaint.
Motorolas Plans for 2009
Although Motorola’s home and network mobility division and its enterprise mobility unit pulled decent numbers in the third quarter, cell phone sales posted an operating loss of $840 million to drag Motorola into an overall loss. While Motorola still clings to the title of the United States’ top cell phone maker, the iconic technology company has fallen to third in global sales behind Nokia and Samsung with LG close to pushing Motorola into fourth place. Apple’s wildly popular iPhone continues to grab consumer share while BlackBerrys are the overwhelming choice of enterprises.
A year ago, Motorola co-CEO Greg Brown announced the company planned to spin off its money-losing handset division, as billionaire investor Carl Icahn has urged, but the worsening economic climate forced Motorola to put that plan on hold in October.
“The environment just isn’t conducive to pursuing [the deal due to the] global economy and stressed financial markets, but we remain committed to that,” Brown said in a third-quarter conference call with reporters and analysts.
That leaves fellow co-CEO Sanjay Jha, who was brought in from Qualcomm in August to lead the spin-off, making a commitment to and a leap of faith with Google Android and Microsoft Windows Mobile as Motorola’s future operating systems for its mobile devices. Jha said Motorola would ditch at least four operating systems, including Symbian, to focus on developing midtier phones running Android and high-end enterprise devices operating on Windows Mobile.
Jha predicted it would take until the third quarter of 2009 to bring out a Windows Mobile phone targeted at enterprises and probably until the 2009 Christmas season before a Motorola-built Android phone could hit the market.
Motorola’s mobile devices division represents about half of the company’s sales. After introducing the successful RAZR model in 2004, Motorola has struggled to launch another hit cell phone.