Jobs threatened suit for no-hire policy, says filing

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Apple co-founder Steve Jobs threatened to file a patent lawsuit against Palm if that company’s chief executive didn’t agree to refrain from poaching Apple employees, according to a court filing made public on Tuesday.

The communication from Jobs surfaced in a civil lawsuit brought by five tech workers against Apple, Google, Intel and others, alleging an illegal conspiracy to eliminate competition for each other’s employees and drive down wages.

The defendant tech companies have attempted to keep a range of documents secret. However, US District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California rejected parts of that request, which led to details of Jobs’ 2007 communications with then-Palm chief executive Edward Colligan becoming part of the public record.

Jobs proposed eliminating competition between the two companies for talent, according to a sworn statement from Colligan cited by the plaintiffs.

Jobs also suggested that if Palm did not agree to such an arrangement, Palm could face lawsuits alleging infringement of Apple’s many patents, Colligan said in the statement.

An Apple representative could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday. A spokesman for Hewlett-Packard, which acquired Palm, also could not be reached.

Colligan told Jobs that the plan was likely illegal, and that Palm was not intimidated by the threat.

If you choose the litigation route, we can respond with our own claims based on patent assets, but I don’t think litigation is the answer, he said.

In 2010, Google, Apple, Adobe Systems, Intel, Intuit and Walt Disney’s Pixar unit agreed to a settlement of a US justice department probe that bars them from agreeing to refrain from poaching each other’s employees.

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