Former iPhone chip designer hits back at Apple for anticompetitive practices

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As the legal battle wears on, former Apple engineer Gerard Williams III now claims Apple has been headhunting employees at Nuvia as part of an anticompetitive campaign against him.

Nuvia co-founders, L-R: John Bruno, Gerard Williams III, and Manu Gulati
Nuvia co-founders, L-R: John Bruno, Gerard Williams III, and Manu Gulati


In December of 2019, Apple sought to sue Gerard Williams III, former iPhone and iPad processor designer, for breach of contract. The suit asserted that Williams began his new company, Nuvia, while still working for Apple, and also accuses him of recruiting his former colleagues.

The specific claims in the suit claimed that "by 2018, Williams had started his new venture on Apple's dime." Apple said Williams told colleagues his new firm would develop technology that Apple "would have no choice but to purchase."

Williams had filed a counter argument, a "notice of demurrer" in the same court. The document referred to multiple sections of Apple's suit which Williams sought to have stricken.

The court, however, allowed it to continue, and rejected Williams' claim. The judge went on to clarify that California law does not allow an employee "to plan and prepare to create a competitive enterprise prior to termination if the employee does so on their employer's time and with the employer's resources."

Williams is now claiming that Apple has launched their own anticompetitive campaign against him, according to court documents provided to AppleInsider by Nuvia. He claims that Apple had threatened Nuvia to not recruit Apple engineers, then had attempted to hire away Nuvia co-founder John Bruno.

He also reiterated that he had waited until he left Apple before starting Nuvia, despite Apple's allegations that he'd started the company while still employed by Apple. His case argues that Apple's actions threaten employee rights, such as the right to mobility and the right to invent independent of your employer.

It's not clear if the case will see trial or not. A judge has dismissed Apple's request for punitive damages as they'd failed to show how Williams had harmed the company by being disloyal.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 25
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,456member
    William Shockley won the Nobel Prize in Physics for inventing the transistor. Later, eight of his employees (including Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce, known as the traitorous eight) left Shockley and formed the Fairchild Semiconductor group. Still later Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce left Fairchild to found Intel. Bottom line, this happens all the time in tech. Someone becomes disillusioned and thinks they can do better than their employer. So let Apple and Williams fight it out and see where the chips fall.
    dewmerazorpitjony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 25
    lkrupp said:
    William Shockley won the Nobel Prize in Physics for inventing the transistor. Later, eight of his employees (including Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce, known as the traitorous eight) left Shockley and formed the Fairchild Semiconductor group. Still later Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce left Fairchild to found Intel. Bottom line, this happens all the time in tech. Someone becomes disillusioned and thinks they can do better than their employer. So let Apple and Williams fight it out and see where the chips fall.
    Apple’s suit isn’t about the shifting of personnel within the industry, it’s about being paid by your boss while you create a new competitor at work and recruit your coworkers while you still work for the employer. Whether it’s true or not we don’t know, but that claim is not what you’ve described. 
    mwhitespice-boybshankRayz2016mdriftmeyerpulseimageslolliverbonobobjony0beowulfschmidt
  • Reply 3 of 25
    entropysentropys Posts: 3,107member
    On the face of it this dude seems a bit amoralistic, setting up a business to directly compete with the company that was currently paying his wage. It is one thing to leave a company and then start a company. Doing it before hand and whiteanting your employer with fellow employees is pretty poor form.
    i guess we will know the true story once this suit has played out.
    mac_doglolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 25
    Oh, boy...
  • Reply 5 of 25
    lkrupp said:
    William Shockley won the Nobel Prize in Physics for inventing the transistor. Later, eight of his employees (including Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce, known as the traitorous eight) left Shockley and formed the Fairchild Semiconductor group. Still later Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce left Fairchild to found Intel. Bottom line, this happens all the time in tech. Someone becomes disillusioned and thinks they can do better than their employer. So let Apple and Williams fight it out and see where the chips fall.
    I spoke with Steve Jobs last night during an Ouija board session, told me to thank you for defending Apple regardless if it is right or wrong. 
    cy_starkmanFileMakerFellerlarryjwrevenantchemengin1
  • Reply 6 of 25

    entropys said:
    On the face of it this dude seems a bit amoralistic, setting up a business to directly compete with the company that was currently paying his wage. It is one thing to leave a company and then start a company. Doing it before hand and whiteanting your employer with fellow employees is pretty poor form.
    i guess we will know the true story once this suit has played out.
    I worked at McDonals once so I guess I can never open a burger joint? 
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 7 of 25
    spice-boy said:

    entropys said:
    On the face of it this dude seems a bit amoralistic, setting up a business to directly compete with the company that was currently paying his wage. It is one thing to leave a company and then start a company. Doing it before hand and whiteanting your employer with fellow employees is pretty poor form.
    i guess we will know the true story once this suit has played out.
    I worked at McDonals once so I guess I can never open a burger joint? 
    maybe, if you learn to read.

    seriously
    lordjohnwhorfinStrangeDaysdesignrauxiojbaughMacPrololliverrazorpitbeowulfschmidtwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 25
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,815member
    Just another ugly divorce. I wonder who will get the dog?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 25
    Oh, Gerard! I am one of your former underlings, commenting anonymously. I'm rooting for you, but I gotta tell you you've been sloppy. You can't leave digital fingerprints. Lemme tell you how to start a company to compete with Apple without getting in hot water: 1. Get a burner Android phone. 2. Get a cofounder who has no connection to Apple. You give a non-electronic list of Apple employees you want to poach to that guy. 3. The non-Apple cofounder sends all the e-mails to the poaching target. Those e-mails don't mention your name. The cofounder sets up a meeting with the prospective employee at a coffee shop, and you just happen to show up unannounced. 4. Tell new employees to keep it off their linkedin profile. Fer gawd's sake, make sure they don't tell their Apple coworkers they're joining a startup that has you in it. Everyone at Apple knew that John, Pradeep and Conrado were at your company. That's a problem.
    FileMakerFellerSpamSandwichStrangeDaystobianrazorpitwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 25
    uujjj said:
    Oh, Gerard! I am one of your former underlings, commenting anonymously. I'm rooting for you, but I gotta tell you you've been sloppy. You can't leave digital fingerprints. Lemme tell you how to start a company to compete with Apple without getting in hot water: 1. Get a burner Android phone. 2. Get a cofounder who has no connection to Apple. You give a non-electronic list of Apple employees you want to poach to that guy. 3. The non-Apple cofounder sends all the e-mails to the poaching target. Those e-mails don't mention your name. The cofounder sets up a meeting with the prospective employee at a coffee shop, and you just happen to show up unannounced. 4. Tell new employees to keep it off their linkedin profile. Fer gawd's sake, make sure they don't tell their Apple coworkers they're joining a startup that has you in it. Everyone at Apple knew that John, Pradeep and Conrado were at your company. That's a problem.
    Hee hee... Love it.
    razorpitwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 25
    spice-boy said:

    entropys said:
    On the face of it this dude seems a bit amoralistic, setting up a business to directly compete with the company that was currently paying his wage. It is one thing to leave a company and then start a company. Doing it before hand and whiteanting your employer with fellow employees is pretty poor form.
    i guess we will know the true story once this suit has played out.
    I worked at McDonals once so I guess I can never open a burger joint? 
    Of course you can, but if you start turning a decent profit, McDonalds will open right next door and put you out of business.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 25
    jd_in_sbjd_in_sb Posts: 1,600member
    The judge should give Williams the chair for wearing tight white pants 
    razorpitwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 25
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    spice-boy said:
    lkrupp said:
    William Shockley won the Nobel Prize in Physics for inventing the transistor. Later, eight of his employees (including Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce, known as the traitorous eight) left Shockley and formed the Fairchild Semiconductor group. Still later Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce left Fairchild to found Intel. Bottom line, this happens all the time in tech. Someone becomes disillusioned and thinks they can do better than their employer. So let Apple and Williams fight it out and see where the chips fall.
    I spoke with Steve Jobs last night during an Ouija board session, told me to thank you for defending Apple regardless if it is right or wrong. 
    So you didn’t actually read his post then. 
    StrangeDayspscooter63mdriftmeyerlolliverrazorpitwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 25
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member

    spice-boy said:

    entropys said:
    On the face of it this dude seems a bit amoralistic, setting up a business to directly compete with the company that was currently paying his wage. It is one thing to leave a company and then start a company. Doing it before hand and whiteanting your employer with fellow employees is pretty poor form.
    i guess we will know the true story once this suit has played out.
    I worked at McDonals once so I guess I can never open a burger joint? 
    Ah! My mistake. 

    The problem is you can’t read. 
    StrangeDayslolliverbeowulfschmidtwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 25
    spice-boy said:

    entropys said:
    On the face of it this dude seems a bit amoralistic, setting up a business to directly compete with the company that was currently paying his wage. It is one thing to leave a company and then start a company. Doing it before hand and whiteanting your employer with fellow employees is pretty poor form.
    i guess we will know the true story once this suit has played out.
    I worked at McDonals once so I guess I can never open a burger joint? 
    Wut? Are you intentionally deploying a strawman fallacy, or do you honestly not understand what’s being discussed?
    lolliverbonobobrazorpitwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 25
    spice-boy said:

    entropys said:
    On the face of it this dude seems a bit amoralistic, setting up a business to directly compete with the company that was currently paying his wage. It is one thing to leave a company and then start a company. Doing it before hand and whiteanting your employer with fellow employees is pretty poor form.
    i guess we will know the true story once this suit has played out.
    I worked at McDonals once so I guess I can never open a burger joint? 
    Don’t you mean you still work at McDonald’s? That is why you cannot open a burger joint. 
    revenantdewmerazorpitwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 25
    William's might be a brilliant chip designer, but he's acted incredibly naive here.

    - His attempts to block Apple from using his company phone's text messages as evidence failed. That was always going to fail and it doesn't look good that he tried
    - If Williams did create private IP while still employed by Apple, even outside of work hours, then Apple may have a claim to it
    - If William's planned and even started a competitor while employed at Apple that's even worse for his case, and it risks destabilising his other claims
    - The clauses raised aren't anti-competitive, and as far as employment contracts go they're a standard way of answering the obvious questions about ownership of IP

    On one hand we can see that non-compete clauses are difficult to enforce for numerous well-founded reasons. I.E. The stipulation that a person must wait X-months before being employed in a similar capacity.
    However I would be very surprised if IP/competitive businesses made during employment will find such difficulty, since the matter is clean-cut about ownership and responsibilities.
    pscooter63lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 25
    This is how Mark Cuban got his start. Took a job at a software company, studied its product and its organization, then cloned the concept for his own company while telling clients they should do business with him instead. He got fired, but still was able to run the cloned company with the stolen clients and sell it for his first millions later on. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 25
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 10,264member
    lkrupp said:
    William Shockley won the Nobel Prize in Physics for inventing the transistor. Later, eight of his employees (including Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce, known as the traitorous eight) left Shockley and formed the Fairchild Semiconductor group. Still later Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce left Fairchild to found Intel. Bottom line, this happens all the time in tech. Someone becomes disillusioned and thinks they can do better than their employer. So let Apple and Williams fight it out and see where the chips fall.

    Based on my personal experience in tech I think it is more complicated than that and generalizations seldom pertain to specific situations for two reasons:

    1)  Tech is largely driven by fairly rare gurus and geniuses (often autistic) -- or at least those with extreme talent and insight.   Their talent and abilities are portable and travel with them wherever they go.   (The masses of technicians mostly just follow the lead of those exceptional individuals)

    2)  New tech is seldom new.  Instead it typically an expansion, combination or refinement of existing tech that makes it commercially viable.  The iPhone evolved from the iPod and iPad evolved from the iPhone, etc....

    So, when one of those high end engineers leaves and begins work elsewhere, a lot goes with him.  That can easily be perceived as stealing technology.  And sometimes it is just that -- a theft.  But often it is simply a highly talented engineer taking his talent, abilities and background information with him.

    So, what exactly was the situation here?   I doubt anybody on the outside can really know.


    Gabyspice-boywatto_cobramariowinco
  • Reply 20 of 25
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 5,005member
    lkrupp said:
    William Shockley won the Nobel Prize in Physics for inventing the transistor. Later, eight of his employees (including Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce, known as the traitorous eight) left Shockley and formed the Fairchild Semiconductor group. Still later Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce left Fairchild to found Intel. Bottom line, this happens all the time in tech. Someone becomes disillusioned and thinks they can do better than their employer. So let Apple and Williams fight it out and see where the chips fall.
    Apple’s suit isn’t about the shifting of personnel within the industry, it’s about being paid by your boss while you create a new competitor at work and recruit your coworkers while you still work for the employer. Whether it’s true or not we don’t know, but that claim is not what you’ve described. 
    Actually, it sounds like you're not even allowed to even think about starting a company. The law requires you to first quit before you do any work towards starting a company. If Apple can show they signed agreement to start a new business while he was still at Apple they violated the law.

    This law may have come about due to Calif law that says companies can not enforce a non competes with employees. I an employee wants to leave to do their own thing they have to do it on their one time then.
    watto_cobra
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