Apple Gains Footing in Court Feud With Former iPhone Chip Architect

A former Apple executive who worked on the chips that power iPhones and iPads has had a request to toss a breach-of-contract lawsuit brought by the company rejected by the court in a tentative ruling.

a7
Last August, Apple sued its former A-series chip lead, Gerard Williams III, for breach of employment contract. Williams was the lead designer of Apple's custom ‌iPhone‌ and ‌iPad‌ chips from the A7 to A12X, before he departed the company in March 2019 to start his own chip company, Nuvia Inc, with two other former Apple chip executives.

Apple accuses him of breaching the contract because it barred him from planning or engaging in any business activities that are "competitive or directly related to Apple's business or products." Williams argues that a provision in the contract conflicts with a California law that allows workers to develop new businesses while they're employed elsewhere.

However, Bloomberg today reports that Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Mark Pierce said the law doesn't permit an employee "to plan and prepare to create a competitive enterprise prior to termination if the employee does so on their employer's time and with the employer's resources."

The judge also dismissed a claim by Williams that Apple invaded his privacy by reviewing text messages he wrote to coworkers that were critical of the company. In one of the messages, Williams is said to have claimed that Apple would have "no choice but to purchase" his new company.

Williams sought to have those texts excluded as evidence in the suit. Pierce disagreed. "There are no allegations in the complaint establishing that the text messages were obtained as the result of eavesdropping upon or recording a confidential communication," he wrote.

The judge sided with Williams in dismissing Apple's bid for punitive damages, saying the company has failed to show how Williams intentionally tried to harm Apple by being disloyal.

Bloomberg notes that the tentative ruling regarding the California law doesn't address the merits of Apple’s claims, but it will allow the company to proceed with pretrial information-sharing if the judge decides to make it final.

Claude Stern, Williams' lawyer, said he would contest the judge's findings at a hearing in San Jose on Tuesday. He argues that Williams can't be sued for simply coming up with a new business idea while working at Apple, as opposed to taking inventions he worked on that belong to his previous employer.

Tag: lawsuit

Top Rated Comments

ersan191 Avatar
26 months ago
I feel like this dude could have just asked for a raise and avoided all this nonsense.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
astroboy888 Avatar
26 months ago
This is an interesting case. Apple claims that Williams breached non-compete contract by starting his own company. But in fact Nuvia, Williams new company is building server chips which does not compete directly against any of Apple's products.

I guess Apple has to demonstrate in court that Nuvia completes directly against Apple, which means they have to show that they are building server chips for external consumption? Otherwise, I can't see how this case can stand.

Maybe there will be more details coming out.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
WannaGoMac Avatar
26 months ago
I am sure he was making a TON of money between his salary and stock options. Yet, that was not enough and he had to scheme to make even more via a startup that Apple would have to buy.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
throwaway2020 Avatar
26 months ago
Apple has always been bad with pay. These thoughts should NOT enter the mind of an employee, especially one as critical as your lead chip designer. Simply paying them 350k and throwing in a million in stock won't cut it. These guys are making you billions of dollars a quarter. wtf is Apple doing.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Jyby Avatar
26 months ago
Science Rules!
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
2979382 Avatar
26 months ago
"if the employee does so on their employer's time and with the employer's resources" This is common sense, what was this guy thinking?!? Anything done on company property with company resources unless otherwise agreed, is under the sole ownership of said company. This is why I never take my work laptop home, so that I avoid mistakenly working on a personal project on company resources.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

Upcoming Products 2022 Feature

Gurman: Apple Preparing 'Widest Array of New Hardware Products in Its History' for Fall

Sunday January 23, 2022 10:32 am PST by
Apple is working on a number of new products that are set to launch this fall, and Bloomberg's Mark Gurman says that it will be "the widest array" of new devices that Apple has introduced in its history. In his latest "Power On" newsletter, Gurman explains that Apple is working on four new flagship iPhones (iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Max, iPhone 14 Pro, and iPhone 14 Pro Max), an updated low-end Ma...
macbook pro 14 16 2021

Three Months After Launch, Apple Still Struggling to Meet Demand for Redesigned 14-Inch and 16-Inch MacBook Pro

Monday January 24, 2022 7:12 am PST by
Three months after their launch, the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros continue to experience high demand and seemingly short supply, with shipping dates for both models stretching into multiple weeks in several of Apple's key markets. In the United States, the baseline 14-inch MacBook Pro with the M1 Pro chip is estimated to ship in three to four weeks, promising an arrival by at least...
General Dropbox Feature

macOS 12.3 Will Include Cloud Storage Changes Affecting Dropbox and OneDrive

Tuesday January 25, 2022 3:31 pm PST by
Dropbox today announced that users who update to macOS 12.3 once that software version becomes available may temporarily encounter issues with opening online-only files in some third-party apps on their Mac. In a support document and an email to customers, Dropbox said it is actively working on full support for online-only files on macOS 12.3 and will begin rolling out an updated version of...
Questionable Design Decisions

Apple's Most Questionable Design Decisions in Recent Memory

Sunday January 23, 2022 2:59 am PST by
Apple has always emphasized the depth of thought that goes into the design of its products. In the foreword to Designed by Apple in California, a photo book released by the company in 2016, Jony Ive explains how Apple strives "to define objects that appear effortless" and "so simple, coherent and inevitable that there could be no rational alternative." But every once in a while even Apple...
Apple Watch Red Yellow Green Feature 1

Apple Launches Black Unity Braided Solo Loop With 'Unity Lights' Watch Face

Wednesday January 26, 2022 6:05 am PST by
Apple today announced the Black Unity Braided Solo Loop for the Apple Watch, as well as a new downloadable watch face, to celebrate Black History Month. Following the launch of the limited edition Black Unity Apple Watch Series 6 and Sport Band in 2021, Apple today launched the Black Unity Braided Solo Loop as part of its celebrations for Black History Month this year.Apple is launching a...
att gigabit internet

AT&T Bringing $180/Month 5-Gigabit Internet to 70 Cities

Monday January 24, 2022 9:20 am PST by
AT&T today announced the launch of upgraded AT&T Fiber plans, which support speeds of up to 5 Gigabits for some customers. There are two separate plans, one "2 GIG" plan and one "5 GIG" plan, available to new and existing AT&T Fiber subscribers. According to AT&T, the new plans are available to nearly 5.2 million customers across 70 metro areas including Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, San...
intel vs m1 max chip purple

Benchmarks Confirm Intel's Latest Core i9 Chip Outperforms Apple's M1 Max With Several Caveats

Wednesday January 26, 2022 8:56 am PST by
Benchmark results have started to surface for MSI's new GE76 Raider, one of the first laptops to be powered by Intel's new 12th-generation Core i9 processor. Intel previously said that its new high-end Core i9 processor is faster than Apple's M1 Max chip in the 16-inch MacBook Pro and, as noted by Macworld, early Geekbench 5 results do appear to confirm this claim, but there are several...
ios 15

Apple Releases iOS 15.3 and iPadOS 15.3 With Fix for Safari Bug That Leaks Browsing Activity

Wednesday January 26, 2022 10:00 am PST by
Apple today released iOS 15.3 and iPadOS 15.3, the third major updates to the iOS and iPadOS 15 operating systems that were released in September 2021. iOS and iPadOS 15.3 come almost two weeks after the release of iOS and iPadOS 15.2.1, minor bug fix updates. The iOS 15.3 and iPadOS 15.3 updates can be downloaded for free and the software is available on all eligible devices over-the-air in ...