US Federal District Judge Kenneth Karas late on Friday ordered the new executive to "immediately cease" work with Apple until the court had come to a decision on whether his employment there breaches the non-compete clause in his contract with IBM that prompted a lawsuit.
The ruling sets back Apple's plans to have Papermaster replace long-serving senior official Tony Fadell, who is leaving the elevated position at the consumer electronics maker for personal reasons.
Apple and Papermaster's lawyers have already mounted a defense in the legal filings meant to avert trouble for the candidate, arguing that his top spot in the division handling the iPhone and iPod touch carries too narrow a scope to risk trade secrets leaking out.
Lawyers for Papermaster also claim that requiring him to obey the non-compete clause, regardless of its particular relevance, would be "incredibly damaging" to his career as it would keep him out of touch with the industry.
IBM disagrees and contends that the nature of processors, regardless of whether they belong in the servers Papermaster would have dealt with or the ARM chips that Papermaster may see, makes it too dangerous to allow one of its senior staffers to switch hands.
"Electronic devices large and small are powered by the same type of intelligence, the microprocessor," the New York state-based company insists.