Apple Case Against Former Employee Allegedly Violates Core Tenet of Tech Startup Culture

Attorneys for a former Apple executive Tuesday will attempt to convince a judge of a core tech startup culture – that employees can think of a competing venture while still in a job.

Apple’s suit against a former chip engineer-turned-competitor will have implications for employees throughout California who’re contemplating striking out on their own and developing the startups that drive tech enterprise and culture.

California’s long-held public policy favors worker mobility in contrast to states that permit strong non-compete agreements.

That position allowed for the “traitorous eight” who left their jobs at Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory for a competitor in the late Fifties and who finally produced dozens of firms, together with Intel.

Apple filed the suit in Santa Clara County Superior Court against Gerard Williams III, who left the company in 2019 after over nine years as the chief architect for the custom processors that power iPhones and iPads to begin Nuvia, which is building server chips.

Judge Mark Pierce last week issued a tentative ruling allowing the case to proceed, however, barring Apple from seeking penal damages.

Pierce will determine after a hearing Tuesday whether to make his ruling remaining.

Apple filed a case against Williams in August, alleging that he violated an intellectual property settlement and a responsibility of loyalty to the firm by developing his new startup, while on company time at Apple, being on the phone with co-workers who finally joined the enterprise.

Apple refused to comment on the case.