Those improbable rumors of Apple working on an electric car got a little more real today. Numerous sources are reporting that Apple is being sued by A123 Systems, a maker of batteries and battery systems for the consumer and commercial vehicles, and commercial power plants.
Apple is accused of poaching engineers who were responsible for development and testing activities on cutting-edge electric vehicle batteries:
“Apple is currently developing a large-scale battery division to compete in the very same field as A123,” the lawsuit reads. If you’re wondering what the “very same field as A123’ would be, the answer is “advanced energy storage for electric-drive vehicles,” according to A123’s web page. A123 says that it has created more lithium-ion hybrid systems for transit buses than any other manufacturer in the world.
Apple is also said to be hiring staff battery experts away from other tech companies including Toshiba, LG, Samsung, and Panasonic. A123 Systems also claims that Apple has its new employees doing essentially the same work that they performed for A123, thus violating noncompete and nondisclosure agreements.
Reuters reports that a total of 11 former A123 Systems engineers now list Apple as their employer (as well as over 60 former Tesla employees). While that doesn't prove Apple has done anything wrong, it does show that there is a talent drain, and it's flowing to Cupertino.
On a related note, A123 Systems was bought out of bankruptcy in 2013 by Wanxiang America, which in its native China is a huge car parts manufacturer. I'm not sure it's wise to sue a potential future business partner, especially one which has deep pockets and believes in fighting to the end in support of principles.
The company is asking for a one-year order barring the defendants from working on any technology that directly competes with its business interests; it also wants to be paid for damages, although this isn't specified.