Apple Sued For Poaching Engineers From Battery Maker A123

Apple is being sued by A123, a company that manufactures batteries for electric cars, for influencing many of its lead engineers to leave A123 to work on similar projects at Apple.

As a result of the loss of employees, A123 has reportedly been forced to stop development on many of its projects. The reason for Apple poaching these employees is currently unknown, but there are two prevailing theories.

One possibility is that Apple wants to start its own dedicated battery manufacturing division. The batteries developed by A123 are based on lithium-ion technology, and while they were designed for electric cars, the technology is similar to lithium-ion batteries used in mobile devices.

Apple enjoys massive success with its iPhones, and it has a profitable line of laptops, as well. Acquiring personnel with the technical expertise to design lithium-ion batteries for use in Apple products could lower costs, allow Apple to better control the supply and quality, and could also result in better battery performance on its devices.

It's also possible, though probably less likely, that Apple might be trying to develop its own electric car. Apple has been picking up employees from electric car company Tesla, too. Tesla has huge plans for developing and manufacturing batteries, so the Tesla and A123 poaches could point to Apple building out a battery division, but perhaps Apple is recruiting talent to make an electric car.

Targeting Tesla's employees lends a bit of credence to the theory that Apple is trying to develop an electric car division. Recently, GM's ex-CEO Dan Akerson stated that it would be a bad idea for Apple to attempt building a car, because the regulations and safety requirements made manufacturing cars difficult.

That may be true, but Apple has deep pockets after years of financial success. It may just have the needed resources to finance development of a car, and thanks to hiring employees from Tesla and A123, it now has some experienced personnel for the project -- or for a battery division.

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Michael Justin Allen Sexton is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers hardware component news, specializing in CPUs and motherboards.
  • Shankovich
    Why sue apple for it? Unless the engineer were under contract, they're free to go work for whoever they want. Sucks for your company but if someone came and gave me a great offer, I'd take it.
  • gggplaya
    It's illegal to proactively headhunt like that. But if apple posting job openings with bigger salaries, and the engineers applied and were hired, then it's not apples fault, maybe A123 should pay them more.
  • zero messiah
    iCar, iTruck, ibike, this would take pretension to a whole new level. What we need is a DIY electric car. C'mon Newegg, daddy needs a new frame and some lug nuts.
  • bit_user
    15329616 said:
    iCar, iTruck, ibike, this would take pretension to a whole new level.
    Good point. If you thought Prius drivers were smug, wait 'till the iCar hits the streets!

    15329616 said:
    What we need is a DIY electric car. C'mon Newegg, daddy needs a new frame and some lug nuts.
    Wow, if you want to drive an electric kit car, more power to you. Literally, perhaps. Sounds like a death trap, IMO.

    It would probably be full of rattles, have no accessories, and the interior would suck. And the worst part is that it would probably cost nearly as much as a comparable model from the big automakers. No thanks.
  • ASmith426
    It would be nice to know exactly why A123 is sueing Apple. Perhaps the Engineers were offered better working conditions to further expand, and test the limits of, their ideas (at Apple). Employee have the right to choose where they work, so i f that is the real reason, I see that going nowhere.
    Did the employees violate nondisclosure agreements, and Apple is capitalizing on the information? I could see a viable lawsuit from that, especially if many of the "lead engineers" left in a close timeframe.
  • There is no slavery in this country. People are free to work where they want. However, companies can't just gut a company by hiring the same team of another company and then reproducing the structure. It's not the engineers that are being sued, it's the corporation. They'll have to justify how they came to know the engineers, how they selected them.

    Or else, it would be too easy to hire the lead engineer, then ask him which are the best employees at the other company, and hire those specifically. Yeah, that's illegal.
  • zfreak280

    You would think A123 Systems would have paid their employees better considering the BILLIONS of US tax payer dollars that went into that failed company and WAS NEVER REPAID. I think this lawsuit should be thrown out and the US should file criminal charges against the previous CEOs of A123 systems.
  • f-14
    A123's fault for not having a non compete employee agreement with a resulting 1 million dollar fine per employee on the company that hires them in addition to the employee wage garnishment of 95% of their payment from their competing employer.
  • Cons29
    i don't mind any company trying to hire people, BUT, when employees gets hired by other companies, don't get angry.
    apple don't like it when other companies try to hire apple employees but they do the same thing
  • back_by_demand
    Apple's track record over the years is diabolical. They have basically stolen every profitable idea, stepping over the corpses of other companies as they went. Stealing the Apple logo from the Beatles, the iPod menu from Creative, the mouse and GUI from Xerox, the iPhone name from Cisco - why am I not shocked in the slightest? I'm not angry, or surprised, just sad that now Jobs isn't around the dirty tactics haven't abated.