Court Filing Says Steve Jobs Enforced No-Hire Policy with Palm with the Threat of a Patent Lawsuit

According to a court filing made public on Tuesday, Steve Jobs threatened to sue Palm, citing patent infringement claims, if the the company didn’t agree to refrain from approaching Apple employees for potential jobs.

Email messages allegedly written by Jobs were presented as part of the plaintiffs’ evidence in a civil lawsuit filed by five tech workers against Apple, Google, Intel Corp., Intuit, Adobe Systems Walt Disney Co’s Pixar unit and Lucasfilm, claiming the existence of an illegal conspiracy between the companies, designed to eliminate competition from each other’s employees and drive down wages, Reuters reports.

Although the defendants were eager to keep the “no-hire paper trail” secret, US District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California granted the plaintiffs’ request, which uncovered the details of Jobs’ 2007 email to Edward Colligan, then Palm’s chief executive officer.

Jobs’ aim was to eliminate competition between Apple and Palm, according to a sworn statement from Colligan, which was cited by the plaintiffs.

Colligan says he received a call from Steve Jobs back in August 2007. During that cal, Colligan claimed, Jobs proposed an arrangement between the two companies that would put an end to the practice.

Also, the Apple co-founder suggested that if Palm did not agree with the agreement, the ultimate result would be a patent infringement lawsuit.

The email evidence presented in the San Jose, California court on Tuesday includes a message allegedly written by Steve Jobs in response to a message from Colligan:
“I’m sure you realize the asymmetry in the financial resources of our respective companies when you say: ‘We will both just end up paying a lot of lawyers a lot of money.’”

But Palm wasn’t the only company targeted by Steve Jobs.

More evidence presented by the plaintiffs reveal email conversations between Eric Schmidt, then Google CEO and now the company executive chairman, demanding that Google’s cellphone software group stop “relentlessly recruiting” from Apple’s iPod group.

As a result, the recruiter pursuing an Apple employee was “terminated within the hour” and Shona Brown, Apple’s former head of People Operations, asked the former Google senior staffing strategist to “make a public example of this termination with the group.”

Tim Cook and Eric Schmidt are scheduled to be questioned by plaintiffs in January and February, respectively.

[via: Reuters, The Verge]

Written by Istvan Fekete; Edited by Mike Crook