Apple Facing Lawsuit for Poaching Key Battery Engineering Employees From A123 Systems

Amid rumors that Apple is hiring employees for a secret car project, the company is today facing a new lawsuit for poaching employees from battery manufacturing company A123 Systems. While the specific battery expertise of many of the employees is unknown, at least one of the employees had experience with developing battery technology for electric vehicles.

According to a lawsuit shared by Law360 (via 9to5Mac) Apple recently hired five employees from A123 Systems to create a "large scale battery division," violating noncompete agreements that employees signed with the latter company.

a123systems

A123 filed suit Feb. 6 in Massachusetts Superior Court, alleging Apple hired away five employees who developed new battery technology and products and tested existing products, despite the fact that the employees were under contracts with noncompete, nonsolicit, and nondisclosure obligations.

Since June, Apple has been mounting "an aggressive campaign to poach employees of A123 and to otherwise raid A123's business," the complaint said.

The employees are said to have left under "suspicious circumstances," and A123 discovered correspondence between its former employees and Apple recruiters on company computers. A123 warned Apple about the noncompete contracts and sought assurance that Apple would not develop a competing business, but Apple reportedly stopped responding to A123's letters.

According to its website, A123 Systems creates "advanced Nanophosphate lithium iron phosphate batteries and energy storage systems," supplied to many vehicle manufacturers. Two of the employees that Apple hired, Dapeng Wang and Indrajeet Thorat, were PhD scientists who manned separate projects at A123, which the company has had to shut down because of difficulty finding replacements.

Wang's LinkedIn profile lists him as a "Development Engineer" at A123 Systems, working on prismatic cell design and tests, among other things. Thorat's LinkedIn profile indicates he held the position of "Battery Research Engineer, Modeling" and A123, where he worked on batteries for hybrid vehicles.

Designed experiments to understand/optimize performance of a cell for Hybrid and Plug-in hybrid vehicles (HEV and PHEVs), Grid energy storage and frequency regulation. Developed models to predict capacity fade and resistance rise during life of a cell under specific duty cycles.

Other employees listed in the lawsuit are Mujeeb Ijaz (A123 CTO), Don Dafoe (Cell Product Engineering), and Michael Erickson (Battery Materials Scientist). Many of the employees' profiles list them as still with A123, and none have any listed association with Apple. Dafoe's profile lists a "Bay area startup" as his place of employment since January 2015.

It is not clear what the A123 Systems employees hired by Apple are working on at the company or whether their work is related to the company's secret car project because Apple is constantly evolving its technology and working on a wide array of battery improvements for all of its future devices. The lawsuit suggests that A123 Systems is, however, concerned that Apple is working on something that competes with its own product lineup, which is focused on passenger and commercial electric vehicles.

Related Roundup: Apple Car

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
67 months ago
Maybe they want a car battery in the Apple Watch
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
67 months ago

Maybe they want a car battery in the Apple Watch

The 6+ runs for about 20 hours on a 2915 mAH battery.

Tesla makes 85 kAH batteries, which is equal to 29160 iPhone 6+ batteries.

So I figure you could run an iPhone 6+ for somewhere around 66 and a half years off of a fully charged Tesla battery. I think people might find that acceptable for an Apple Watch battery life. The battery only weighs somewhere around 900 pounds.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
67 months ago
Google, Apple, Facebook and others just lost a lawsuit and probably have to pay a few hundred million dollars because they had agreements not to hire employees off each other, thereby making it harder for employees to move from one company to the other and making more money.

Surely if this goes to court Apple should insist on getting the same judge who just convicted them because of anti-poaching agreements.

Although I think non-compete clauses should be banned anyway, personally.

Germany allows anti-poaching agreements if there is reasonable compensation. So you say to your old company "I can work at Apple for $250,000 a year, or McDonald's for $10,000 a year. So either you let me work at Apple, or you pay me $240,000 a year".

Would there be a contract between A123 and Apple to not hire employees from each other this would be a different thing, and of course a whole new lawsuit alone.

As we know, the employees could sue them both and would win.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
67 months ago
I dont get this.. but I dont know much about that kinda stuff.

Apple gets a lawsuit for poaching people from another company, those people signed the contract and they broke it to work for Apple. Where is the illegal part on Apples side?

Would there be a contract between A123 and Apple to not hire employees from each other this would be a different thing, and of course a whole new lawsuit alone.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
67 months ago
A123 is probably looking at the deep-pockets of Apple.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
67 months ago

When will this stop?


I agree, non-compete clauses can be devastating for an individual.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Apple Acquires Weather App Dark Sky

Tuesday March 31, 2020 10:22 am PDT by Juli Clover
Apple has acquired weather app Dark Sky, Dark Sky's developers announced today. Dark Sky is one of the most popular weather apps on the App Store, known for its accuracy and storm warnings. Our goal has always been to provide the world with the best weather information possible, to help as many people as we can stay dry and safe, and to do so in a way that respects your privacy. There is no ...

Apple's 2020 MacBook Air vs. 2020 iPad Pro

Wednesday April 1, 2020 2:45 pm PDT by Juli Clover
Apple in March updated both the MacBook Air and the iPad Pro, and with the iPad Pro increasingly positioned as a computer replacement, we thought we'd compare both new machines to see how they measure up and which one might be a better buy depending on user needs. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. We're comparing the base model 12.9-inch iPad Pro and the base model...

Zoom Accused of Misleading Users With 'End-to-End Encryption' Claims Amid Other Security Issues [Updated]

Wednesday April 1, 2020 2:47 am PDT by Tim Hardwick
Zoom is facing fresh scrutiny today following a report that the videoconferencing app's encryption claims are misleading. Zoom states on its website and in its security white paper that the app supports end-to-end encryption, a term that refers to a way of protecting user content so that the company has no access to it whatsoever. However, an investigation by The Intercept reveals that...

Case for Upcoming Low-Cost iPhone Shows Up at Best Buy With Alleged April 5 Stock Date

Monday March 30, 2020 4:25 pm PDT by Juli Clover
Apple has a new low-cost iPhone in the works, which is supposed to be launching sometime in the first half of 2020. Given the ongoing situation in the United States and other countries, it's been unclear if the device is going to launch within the planned timeline, but there are signs that it could be coming soon. We started seeing cases for the new low-cost iPhone back in early February,...

Apple Adding Some 2013 and 2014 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro Models to Vintage Products List at End of April

Wednesday April 1, 2020 2:24 pm PDT by Joe Rossignol
In an internal memo obtained by MacRumors, Apple has indicated that the following 2013 and 2014 models of the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro will be added to its vintage and obsolete products list on April 30:MacBook Air (11-inch, Mid 2013) MacBook Air (13-inch, Mid 2013) MacBook Air (11-inch, Early 2014) MacBook Air (13-inch, Early 2014) MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid 2014)Apple defines vintage...

AirTags Referenced in New Apple Support Video

Thursday April 2, 2020 12:12 pm PDT by Joe Rossignol
Apple has accidentally referenced its widely rumored AirTags item tracking tags in a video that it uploaded to its Apple Support channel on YouTube today. The video was first spotted by the blog Appleosophy and has quickly been removed. The video was titled "How to erase your iPhone." AirTags were mentioned in Settings > Apple ID > Find My > Find My iPhone under Enable Offline Finding, with...

Testing Brydge's New Pro+ Keyboard With Trackpad for iPad Pro

Monday March 30, 2020 2:04 pm PDT by Juli Clover
Well ahead of when Apple introduced trackpad support in iOS 13.4, Brydge announced an iPad Pro keyboard with a built-in multi-touch trackpad. We have one of Brydge's new Pro+ keyboards on hand, and thought we'd check it out to see how it works with Apple's new 2020 iPad Pro models. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. The Brydge Pro+ keyboard is similar in design to...

Intel Unveils 10th-Gen Processors Suitable for Next 16-Inch MacBook Pro With Wi-Fi 6 and Turbo Boost Speeds Above 5GHz

Thursday April 2, 2020 7:53 am PDT by Joe Rossignol
Intel today announced the launch of its latest 10th-generation Core processors for high-end notebooks, potentially including the next 16-inch MacBook Pro. The batch of 45W chips, part of the Comet Lake family, are built on Intel's 14nm++ architecture. The new H-series chips have the same base clock speeds as the 9th-generation chips in the current 16-inch MacBook Pro, but Turbo Boost speeds...

Apple's Work on New Upcoming Products Progressing Normally as Employees Adjust to Telecommuting

Monday March 30, 2020 11:58 am PDT by Juli Clover
Apple's development of upcoming products is progressing as usual despite the fact that Apple employees around the world are working from home, according to a new report today out from Bloomberg. Apple is still working on new versions of the HomePod, Apple TV, MacBook Pro, budget iPads, Apple Watch, iPhone, and iMac, all of which could be released "as early as later this year" and have been...

2020 iPad Pro May Not Have a U1 Ultra Wideband Chip After All

Wednesday April 1, 2020 8:49 pm PDT by Joe Rossignol
While it was previously reported that all 2020 iPad Pro models feature the same Apple-designed U1 chip as the iPhone 11 lineup, enabling Ultra Wideband support, we have compiled evidence to suggest that this may not be the case. As a reminder, Apple's tech specs for the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro list an Ultra Wideband chip for spatial awareness, but the chip is not mentioned in Apple's...