Apple: A123’s Lawsuit “Baseless Conjecture,” Not Actionable Under Law

Apple is asking a Massachusetts federal court to dismiss a lawsuit that A123 Systems, an electric-car battery maker, filed against the computing giant for allegedly poaching A123’s employees.

Apple filed a 13-page memo Monday that details why it believes claims in the suit, which also named five current Apple and former A123 employees as defendants, are false. The argument ranges from saying it was “baseless conjecture” to allege that some former employees recruited others and broke noncompete and nonsolicit agreements, to asserting the A123 claim that Apple “raided” the battery maker’s employees isn’t even actionable under Massachusetts law.

When A123 Systems filed the lawsuit Feb. 18, it said it believes Apple poached the employees to help develop a competing large-scale battery business. Though Apple didn’t directly deny that claim, it did indirectly address the issue, noting that A123’s belief about Apple’s interest in car batteries is “bare speculation and unfounded conclusions.”

Of the five employees, A123’s lawsuit in particular targets Mujeeb Ijaz, its former chief technology officer, who A123 alleges was involved in getting the other defendants hired.

Apple called those recruitment allegations threadbare, and tried to emphasize its point by saying A123’s belief that Ijaz recruited Don Dafoe, who was vice president of cell product engineering at A123 and started at Apple after Ijaz, was based on a single e-mail. A123 alleges in its complaint that it has proof Ijaz helped recruit Dafoe, citing an e-mail exchange about applying to Apple that included Ijaz.

The other three defendants, Michael Erickson, Dapeng Wang, and Indrajeet Thorat, all started working at Apple within the last month, A123 alleged in February, while Ijaz switched companies in June 2014.

A123 said in the complaint that it told Apple it is concerned that Ijaz will inevitably disclose A123’s proprietary information. In its response, Apple asked for dismissal, claiming that A123 cited no factual basis for the claim.

The court set a response date of March 24.

A123’s suit asked the court to enjoin the former employees from working in direct or indirect competition with A123 for a year, as well as from disclosing proprietary information or from soliciting other employees. The company wants the court to enjoin Apple from hiring any more of its employees. A123 also asked the court to award it monetary damages, to be determined at trial, according to the filing.

The complaint contends that Apple has tried to do the same thing at other companies, specifically naming LG, Samsung, Panasonic, Toshiba, and Johnson Controls.

A123 has had a torrid history. Founded in 2001, the company was the country’s largest IPO in 2009 at $371 million. By 2012, it found itself in bankruptcy and restructuring. Wanxiang took over the business in 2013.

A123 says that projects the former employees were working on have been “principally shut down” since they departed, and alleges it suffered “severe economic impact” because Apple “raided” its Venture Technologies division. The company lists A123 System’s corporate headquarters in Livonia, MI, and says A123 Venture Technologies is located in Waltham, MA.

A 123 v Apple Dismiss Motion Support

David Holley is Xconomy's national correspondent based in Austin, TX. You can reach him at [email protected] Follow @xconholley

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