Electric-Car Battery Maker A123 Sues Apple for Poaching Employees

A123 Systems, an electric-car battery maker, is suing Apple because it believes the computing giant “poached” A123’s employees to help develop a competing large-scale battery business.

The complaint (see below) names five of A123’s former employees as defendants in the suit, which was filed Wednesday in Massachusetts federal court, for allegedly breaking noncompete and nonsolicit agreements. A123 in particular targets Mujeeb Ijaz, its former chief technology officer, who A123 alleges was involved in getting the other defendants hired.

The company says in the complaint that it has told Apple it is concerned that Ijaz will inevitably disclose A123’s proprietary information.

Another former A123 employee, Don Dafoe, who was vice president of cell product engineering, started at Apple a month ago, the lawsuit says. A123 alleges that it has proof Ijaz helped recruit Dafoe, citing an e-mail exchange about applying to Apple that included Ijaz. The other three defendants, Michael Erickson, Dapeng Wang, and Indrajeet Thorat, all started working at Apple within the last month, while Ijaz switched companies in June 2014, A123 alleges.

The suit asks the court to enjoin the former employees from working in direct or indirect competition with A123 for a year, as well as from disclosing proprietary information or from soliciting other employees. The company wants the court to enjoin Apple from hiring any more of its employees. A123 also asks the court to award it monetary damages, to be determined at trial, according to the filing.

The complaint contends that Apple has tried to do the same thing at other companies, specifically naming LG, Samsung, Panasonic, Toshiba, and Johnson Controls.

A123 has had a torrid history. Founded in 2001, the company was the country’s largest IPO in 2009 at $371 million. By 2012, it found itself in bankruptcy and restructuring. Wanxiang took over the business in 2013.

A123 filed a motion Thursday for a temporary restraining order and injunction against Ijaz and Apple, according to court documents.

A123 says that projects the former employees were working on have been “principally shut down” since they departed, and alleges it suffered “severe economic impact” because Apple “raided” its Venture Technologies division. The company lists A123 System’s corporate headquarters in Livonia, MI, and says A123 Venture Technologies is located in Waltham, MA.

A123 v Apple

David Holley is Xconomy's national correspondent based in Austin, TX. You can reach him at dholley@xconomy.com Follow @xconholley

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  • joe

    This is particularly hilarious, because A123 poached most of its employees from APC (former APC employee). We used to joke it was APC123.

  • rconaway

    Let’s just get this in perspective. Chinese companies steal whatever technology they want illegally and resell it like Huawei but they whine when someone does it to them legally. Don’t worry, I’m sure that A123 is already working with the Chinese government to try and hack Apple to steal whatever technology they have. We know they hacked Apple, no secrets there.

  • janamarie