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IBM Businesses Government The Courts Apple News

Former IBM Exec Ordered To Stop Working For Apple 270

tom_guyette writes "ComputerWorld reports a federal judge has ordered former IBM executive Mark Papermaster, recently hired as Apple's vice president of hardware devices engineering, to stop working for Apple. The judge's ruling is based on a motion for preliminary injunction made by IBM, which states Papermaster's new job violates a non-compete agreement he signed in 2006. In response, Papermaster asserted to the court that 'Nothing about his new job will implicate any trade secrets from IBM.'"
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Former IBM Exec Ordered To Stop Working For Apple

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  • Re:states rights! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by spire3661 ( 1038968 ) on Monday November 10, 2008 @07:14PM (#25713029) Journal
    So what, the guy cant work in his professional field anymore? I get that you want to protect your IP, but not at the cost of a very highly qualified individual's livelyhood. If Nvidia makes an infringeing part, you sue them, but you dont stop people from taking jobs. Chilling effect indeed! I have friends that would think twice about working for Big Blue now. Makes me nervous of the thought of signing your brain over to a corporation.
  • Re:Lame response (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) * on Monday November 10, 2008 @07:34PM (#25713297)

    But...but... but.. What about my freedom to tell people lies and break my word?!

    You always have that freedom. You just aren't guaranteed to always get away with it.

  • by cdrguru ( 88047 ) on Monday November 10, 2008 @07:38PM (#25713335) Homepage

    Sure it would be nice if such non-compete agreements could not be implemented. From what I have seen in the past it was unusual that an employer would get themselves into this situation in the first place - if a possible non-compete problem existed they just didn't bother with that applicant.

    Once you start opening the door to such things, it is very difficult to just sue the company. What the non-complete may be relevent for may be something that is buried deep in the processes of the company and not at all apparent in the resulting product. And besides, that just opens the door to exploratory lawsuits because the person that got hired might be disclosing information they have no right to disclose.

    This isn't just "personal knowledge" either. It is often "organization knowledge" that you have to know about in order to do your job at Company A. Upon going to Company B it is clear that if they only knew what your former employer did, they would get more sales, make products faster and cheaper, whatever.

    Where some co-workers got themselves into trouble was (a) not disclosing there was a non-complete agreement in the first place and (b) trying to find out how much this knowledge might be worth to their new employer. As in "I might be able to offer some advice on how to do this better for $5000." Yes, I heard about that offer once. It was a while ago and resulted in immediate (same hour) termination of the employee.

  • Money grubbers (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10, 2008 @07:39PM (#25713353)

    This is ridiculous. Papermaster gave IBM a two week notice in which he disclosed his new position with Apple. Instead of protesting at that time, IBM waits until he starts work with Apple, and THEN sues him. It looks like IBM is just hoping for an out-of-court settlement from Apple. They can't seriously believe that their blade server secrets are threatened by iPods...

  • Re:states rights! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10, 2008 @07:40PM (#25713371)

    It still matters. IANAL, however, Contract law is typically state law. Federal courts can, and often do, litigate state law claims. When they do, they must determine which state's law applies. The question here is, first, whether California's law applies, and second, whether California's law is effective against the contract.

  • Re:NY law applies (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) on Monday November 10, 2008 @07:41PM (#25713381) Homepage Journal
    And here is the hypocrisy. Texas is a right to work state, which means that it is illegal to set up impediments that prevent a person from working. While this is narrowly interpreted, and largely intended, to prevent the workers in a free market from engaging in the same type of activities that employers do to keep profits at a reasonable level, there is no reasonable cause for such interpretation. Right to work should be right to work. No one, not the union, not the corporation, not the government, should be allowed to set up impediment for a person to seek and achieve gainful employment of their choice.
  • Re:states rights! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kae77 ( 1006997 ) on Monday November 10, 2008 @07:45PM (#25713421)
    This is standard corporate procedure. You work with a company, they reveal trade secrets, you sign a clause saying that you won't work in the same industry or with a direct competitor for a year. This guy was treated more than fairly. They didn't kick him to the curb, they offered him a years paid salary to sit out, and he still left the company. When you take into consideration that Apple recently dumped IBM's processors, and some lingering animosity from that, it's no wonder why IBM is being aggressive in it's approach. While I'm no fan of corporate overlords, you don't just let some high level shirt walk off with all of the trade information about your current and future plans to a competitor and sit idly by. This guy knew exactly what he was doing and decided to roll the dice.
  • Re:Lame response (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Retric ( 704075 ) on Monday November 10, 2008 @08:20PM (#25713859)
    I did not sign a non compete and I kept working for the company for over a year. If they want a non compete say fine I want 50% over the average for my position. Company's only have the power people give them by blindly taking their crap.
  • by digitalchinky ( 650880 ) on Monday November 10, 2008 @08:21PM (#25713881)

    Some really do last a lifetime, I have a non-compete agreement in my secret 3 letter agency clause that says: "We, as in a bunch of guys with guns and the keys to all the jails and stuff, will come get you no matter where you are in the world if you don't keep your mouth shut about our government secrets until you die. If you work for someone else in the trade we might even hang you until you are dead, then put you in jail for 322 years just to make sure"

    Sign the delta brief and you've signed on for life.

    My choices were quite limited after resigning. People don't want to employ former spies. The best I could manage were a few low paying industrial espionage gigs. So I put ~disgruntled former spy~ in the resume and my troubles went away overnight.

  • Re:NY law applies (Score:4, Interesting)

    by chefmonkey ( 140671 ) on Monday November 10, 2008 @08:27PM (#25713963)

    Ummm... non-compete agreements are perfectly enforceable in Texas [smith-robertson.com] so long as certain requirements are met (agreed-upon timeframe, agreed-upon geographical location, agreed-upon activities). There's some degree of latitude in what those requirements are, depending on the type of job the non-compete is attached to -- I've had lawyers confirm that "worldwide" is likely sufficient qualification to meet the "geographical location" criteria in certain circumstances.

    And that's ignoring that, with sufficient compensation, the "at-will" nature of employment can actually be transcended. In layman's terms, if they pay you enough, then you can agree to almost anything, and it will be legally binding. It's guaranteed not to be an issue for most people, but it can make a difference once you're playing at the "executive in a large company" level.

  • Re:Compensation? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by xbytor ( 215790 ) on Monday November 10, 2008 @11:01PM (#25715453) Homepage

    > his current base salary

    If he's high enough in the food chain, that would suck. I've been in jobs where bonuses etc... were multiples of base salary. In his case, that might mean a 75% cut in his annual compensation.

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