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.

Top Rated Comments

ersan191 Avatar
40 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
40 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
40 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
40 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
40 months ago
Science Rules!
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
2979382 Avatar
40 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

Multi Display CarPlay 1

Apple Launching All-New CarPlay Experience Later This Year With These 5 Features

Sunday January 29, 2023 10:15 am PST by
In June 2022, Apple previewed the next generation of CarPlay, promising deeper integration with vehicle functions like A/C and FM radio, support for multiple displays across the dashboard, personalization options, and more. Apple says the first vehicles with support for the next-generation CarPlay experience will be announced in late 2023, with committed automakers including Acura, Audi,...
iphone 15 pro wifi 6e

Internal Apple Document From Leaker 'Unknownz21' Confirms Wi-Fi 6E Will Be Limited to iPhone 15 Pro Models

Friday January 27, 2023 10:01 am PST by
Multiple rumors have suggested that the next-generation iPhone 15 models will adopt the Wi-Fi 6E standard that Apple has already introduced in the iPad Pro and MacBook Pro, and now a leaked document appears to confirm Apple's plans. Sourced from researcher and Apple leaker Unknownz21 (@URedditor), the document features diagrams of the iPhone 15's antenna architecture. D8x refers to the...
iPhone 14 Pro Purple Side Perspective Feature Purple

iPhone 15 Pro Rumored to Have These 8 Features

Friday January 27, 2023 2:11 pm PST by
Apple's next-generation iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max are expected to be announced in September as usual. Already, rumors suggest the devices will have at least eight exclusive features not available on the standard iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus. An overview of the eight features rumored to be exclusive to iPhone 15 Pro models:A17 chip: iPhone 15 Pro models will be equipped with an A17...
top stories 28jan2023

Top Stories: iOS 16.3 Released, iPhone 15 Pro Rumors, macOS Tips and Tricks, and More

Saturday January 28, 2023 6:00 am PST by
Following last week's hardware announcements, this week saw the actual release of several of the new products as well as operating system updates bringing new features and bug fixes across Apple's platforms. This week also saw some fresh rumors about the iPhone 15 lineup and Apple's upcoming AR/VR headset, while we shared some tips to help you get the most of your macOS experience, so read...
Foldable iPhone 2023 Feature Blue

Kuo: Apple to Release Foldable iPad With Carbon Fiber Kickstand in 2024

Monday January 30, 2023 12:55 am PST by
Apple will launch a foldable iPad with a carbon fiber kickstand sometime next year, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a series of tweets, Kuo said he expects an "all-new design foldable iPad" to be the next big product launch in the iPad lineup, with no other major iPad releases in the next nine to 12 months. The analyst said he was "positive" that the foldable device would arrive in...
Hero0013

Best Apple Deals of the Week: 2021 MacBook Pro Gets Massive $500 Markdowns as Samsung Discounts TVs and Memory Accessories

Friday January 27, 2023 11:07 am PST by
As we near the end of January, this week we saw a collection of deals on Apple's iPad Pro, iMac, and the 2021 MacBook Pro. Additionally, we're tracking new sales on TVs and memory accessories from Samsung. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running. Samsung...