Apple accused of poaching staff from car battery-making rival

A123 Systems claims the iPad maker has lured staff, despite non-compete clauses, to work on its battery plans

Apple is accused of poaching staff from a firm specialising in the development of electric car batteries, in a lawsuit filed with the Massachusetts federal court.

The consumer electronics giant is said to have lured away five employees working for A123 Systems with expertise in product testing and development, despite the presence of non-compete clauses in their employment contracts.

As a result, A123 Systems has filed a breach of contract lawsuit against Apple and the employees who defected. The document also details instances of unfair competition and misappropriation of trade secrets.

The lawsuit, first picked up by Law360.com, claims Apple embarked on an "aggressive campaign" to poach the company's staff and that five then left under "suspicious circumstances".

These members of staff, named in the lawsuit as Mujeeb Ijaz, Don Dafoe, Michael Erickson, Depeng Wang and Indrajeet Thorat, all worked for A123 Systems' Venture Technologies Division.

"In the wake of defendants Erickson, Wang and Thorat's departures, the projects that each was individually and principally responsible for have been effectively shut down for lack of PhD employees to replace them," read a court filing from A123.

The company said it wrote to Apple, making it aware of the non-compete clauses in its contracts, but claims the iPad maker stopped responding to its letters.

The reason it supposedly embarked on this illicit recruitment drive was to set up its own battery division, the lawsuit claims, as reports about Apple's plans to build a self-driving car continue to circulate.

A123 Systems makes lithium iron phosphate batteries, and employs more than 2,000 people across the globe.  

At the time of writing, neither Apple nor A123 Systems had commented on the contents of the lawsuit.

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