District Judge Lucy Koh on Wednesday rejected a bid by Apple, Google, Intel, Pixar and three other tech companies to dismiss claims in an antitrust lawsuit. The companies have been accused by five software engineers citing the Sherman Act, which is a federal statute on competition law that prohibits certain business activities that reduce competition in the marketplace. In this case, the companies reportedly illegally conspired not to poach each other’s employees, Reuters said, thus depressing “employee pay by eliminating competition for skilled labor.”
“The fact that all six identical bilateral agreements were reached in secrecy among seven defendants in a span of two years suggests that these agreements resulted from collusion, and not from coincidence,” Koh said, referring to the existence of a “Do Not Cold Call” agreement among the defendants.
The seven companies were involved in a similar case in 2010, in which anti-probes were settled with the Department of Justice. The companies, without admitting wrongdoing, agreed “not to take steps to restrict competition for workers,” Reuters said.
An email trail from 2007 between the late Steve Jobs and Google’s Eric Schmidt has previously been brought forward as evidence of the companies’ “no poach” agreement. Google reportedly made an effort to recruit an Apple engineer, in which Jobs wrote Schmidt, “I would be very pleased if your recruiting department would stop doing this.” Schmidt then forward Jobs’s email to people within Google, asking if they could “get this stopped,” Reuters said.
The case is currently on track for a June 2013 trial.