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Court OKs Apple’s Lawsuit Against Former Engineer

Former Apple engineer Gerard Williams III stands accused of breaching his contract with the company. A Superior Court ruled that Apple’s case against Williams can now go to trial.

By Chand Bellur

January 20, 2020 at 6:00 p.m. PDT

Apple Inc. v. Williams III

With deep pockets and driving ambition, Apple tends to be embroiled in countless court battles. The latest case involves a former engineer who started his next enterprise while still employed by Apple.

Williams, now the founder of Nuvia, began work on his business while employed at Apple. This may violate the anti-competitiveness agreements in his contract. Williams is also accused of recruiting former colleagues, which may also be a breach of contract.

The case, which seems like a Silicon Valley episode, pits employer versus employee. Williams contends that the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act protects his actions. He also argued that Apple violated his privacy by accessing his text messages for evidence. This tactic was used to discourage other Apple employees from following suit, according to Williams.

Santa Clara Superior Court Sides with Apple

Williams’ defense stands on shaky ground. Presiding Judge Mark Pierce ruled that the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act does not permit employees to create a competing business before termination. He also struck down Williams’ request to suppress text messages:

“There are no allegations in the complaint establishing that the text messages were obtained as the result of eavesdropping upon or recording a confidential communication.”

With so much against him, Williams faces a dubious legal challenge. Apple sought punitive damages against Williams, however the judge denied the request. Williams did not seek to purposefully harm the company, according to Judge Pierce. Williams will likely lose his court battle, however, avoiding punitive damages may lighten the blow.

The legal battle is a solid reminder to would-be entrepreneurs about moonlighting and intellectual property. Don’t start your next enterprise while still working for another company. With a ridiculous cost of living, this is difficult to accomplish in the Silicon Valley. The alternative, however, could tarnish one’s reputation for a lifetime.

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