Electric-Car Battery Maker Sues Apple For Poaching Engineers

Feb 19, 2015 08:00 AM EST | Matt Mercuro

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Apple is being sued by electric-car battery maker A123 Systems for poaching top engineers to create a large-scale battery division, according to a court filing that offered more evidence the company is considering making an electric vehicle.

Apple has supposedly been poaching engineers with experience in car systems from companies, like Tesla, and is talking with industry experts and automakers to try learning how to make its own electric vehicle, an auto industry source confirmed to the Wall Street Journal.

A123 Systems is known for their industrial lithium-ion batteries and is backed by a $249 million U.S. government grant. The company filed for bankruptcy back in 2012 and has been selling off assets, according to Reuters.

Lithium-ion is a battery technology that can be used in applications from airplanes to computers, but A123 specializes in big batteries that can be used in large machines, like cars.

Apple started poaching A123 engineers who were working on some of the company's most important projects around June 2014. The former A123 engineers left the company to pursue similar jobs at Apple, in violation of their employment agreements, the lawsuit says, which was filed earlier this month in Massachusetts federal court.

"Apple is currently developing a large-scale battery division to compete in the very same field as A123," the lawsuit read, which was first reported by legal website law360.com.

Apple nor A123 has commented regarding the lawsuit as of press time. A123 also sued five former employees, who have also not spoken regarding the suit yet.

The lawsuit indicates that the engineers who left A123 were so important the projects they were working on had to be abandoned after their departure.

"It appears that Apple, with the assistance of defendant Ijaz, is systematically hiring away A123's high-tech PhD and engineering employees, thereby effectively shutting down various projects/programs at A123," according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims Apple might be looking to hire other battery engineers form companies like LG Chem Ltd, Samsung SDI Co Ltd, Panasonic Corp, Toshiba Corp and Johnson Controls Inc.

Besides the five defendants, it's believed at least six other former-A123 engineers moved over to Apple as well, according to Reuters.

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