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Steve Jobs Threatened Palm with a Lawsuit to Stop Poaching Employees

by Todd Haselton | January 23, 2013

Steve Jobs pointing

Last year several engineers brought a lawsuit against Apple, Google, Intel, Pixar and other firms over an alleged secret “no poaching” policy. Basically, the firms were accused of entering an agreement not to poach one another’s employees. That sounds good on paper, but it’s not good news if you’re a top notch engineer trying to move from one firm to another for a better job opportunity. As a result, workers would potentially make less money staying where they were.

Steve Jobs apparently even threatened one of Apple’s former competitors, Palm, with a lawsuit to prevent these kind of situations from happening.

Reuters said recently that Jobs actually told Palm, which was eventually consumed by HP and left to the ether, he would leverage a lawsuit against the firm if it didn’t agree to stop trying to poach Apple’s top workers. The letter to Palm was recently discovered in the ongoing no poaching lawsuit. It wasn’t just any kind of lawsuit, though – Jobs said he would accuse Palm of patent infringement. As you may know from the ongoing Apple v Samsung lawsuits, those cases are high level and are super expensive, which could have resulted in a dangerous environment for Palm.

Edward Colligan, Palm’s CEO at the time, told Steve Jobs that his threat was “likely illegal” and that his company wouldn’t bow down to the demands. “If you choose the litigation route, we can respond with our own claims based on patent assets, but I don’t think litigation is the answer,” Colligan said, according to a filing retrieved by Reuters.

Google, in on the non-poaching agreement, was down to play ball. Apparently then CEO Eric Schmidt said he wanted to discuss the details “verbally, since [he didn’t] want to create a paper trail over which [Google could] be sued over later.” Google has denied the claims and said that it’s “always actively and aggressively recruited top talent.”

Clearly there’s something going on here, and we’re glad the case is still ongoing so that tech engineers get the jobs they deserve, not the ones they’re forced to stick with.

Reuters

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Todd Haselton

Todd Haselton has been writing professionally since 2006 during his undergraduate days at Lehigh University. He started out as an intern with...