Apple Looks to Settle Poaching Lawsuit With Electric Battery Maker

Mar 04, 2015 09:00 AM EST | Matt Mercuro

Apple Inc. is trying to settle a lawsuit filed by electric car battery maker A123 Systems, which accused the Cupertino-based company of poaching engineers for its large-scale battery division.

Apple is looking into how to make an electric car and has been hiring engineers with knowledge in automobile systems. Starting last summer, Apple began poaching A123 engineers to run some of the company's most important projects, the lawsuit says.

A123 filed the breach of contract lawsuit last month against Apple and five former A123 employees.

"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.

In a court filing on Tuesday, Apple asked a Massachusetts federal judge for an extension of time so they could respond to the lawsuit since "they are exploring potential resolution," according to Reuters.

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.

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.

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.

Trying to make an actual car would be a big shift for the iPhone maker. There is a chance they don't follow through with the project since Apple is known for researching projects only to discard them later to stick with its core expertise in electronic and mobile devices.

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.

It is believed that at least six other former A123 engineers moved over to Apple as well since last summer, according to Reuters.

The case in U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts is A123 Systems LLC vs. Apple Inc et al., 15-10438.

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