Details of Steve Jobs lawsuit threat surface in poaching case

Court Gavel
Jobs threat may prove helpful in a new civil suit

A patent lawsuit against Palm and threatened by Steve Jobs in 2007 has come to light thanks to U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh's decision to make secret documents part of public record.

Koh's decision came about due to a new case where five technology workers have filed a complaint against Apple, Intel, Google, and other companies, alleging the defendants conspired to eliminate competition and drive down potential employee wages.

According to the newly released documents, Jobs proposed a deal with former Palm CEO Edward Colligan to eliminate competition for employees between the two companies.

"Mr. Jobs also suggested that if Palm did not agree to such an arrangement, Palm could face lawsuits alleging infringement of Apple's many patents," Colligan said in the sworn statement.

Tech Illuminati

Koh is deliberating how best to proceed with the case, and whether or not the civil suit can proceed as a class action suit, which could potentially lead to a larger settlement.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs estimated such damages could reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Even though Koh claimed the plaintiffs had some "holes" in their analysis, she did cite key emails from executives as evidence in the case.

In 2010, several companies (including Google, Apple, and Pixar) reached a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department, which prevents them from instituting anti-poaching policies.

With this case, filings made on Tuesday revealed just how Google has handled its no-hire agreements with its competitors.

According to the paperwork, Google's former chief executive and current executive chairman Eric Schmidt was quoted as saying he would rather share the company's policies with competitors "verbally, since I don't want to create a paper trail over which we can be sued later."

Schmidt is due to appear for questioning by the plaintiffs lawyers in February.

While the lack of competition may have proved beneficial for the companies allegedly involved in these practices, there are sure to be countless employees who feel otherwise.

This suit could have major ramifications for the tech industry should it continue, and work out in the favor of the plaintiffs.

Via Reuters