Apple, Google, Intel and others face trial over anti-poaching deals

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Bloomberg is reporting that Apple, Google, Intel and several other tech companies are set to go to court next year over ‘no solicitation’ agreements. The outlet says that U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh made the call earlier this week.

Koh determined that there is sufficient evidence to push a 2011 lawsuit to trial as a class-action civil suit. The suit alleges that over 64,000 technical employees were harmed by the anti-competitive actions of the defendant companies…

Here’s Bloomberg:

“U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California, yesterday granted class-action certification. Koh’s ruling follows an April ruling rejecting the employees’ bid to proceed as a class — partly because they failed to demonstrate that all or almost all class members were affected by the anti-solicitation agreements — and an August hearing in which she said the case was “much stronger” after additional pretrial information gathering.

The suit represents software and hardware engineers, programmers, animators, digital artists, Web developers and other technical professionals, according to the ruling. Kelly Dermody, a lawyer representing them, said in an e-mail that there are as many as 64,626 potential class members.

The lawsuit was originally filed in 2011, after an investigation by the Justice Department into claims of anti-poaching deals hit a dead end. The companies settled with the DOJ and agreed not to form no-solicitation agreements for five years.

Earlier this year, Tim Cook was questioned by plaintiff attorneys in the case—as was Google chairman Eric Schmidt, former Intel boss Pa Otellini and other tech company executives. And during that time, this email to Steve Jobs surfaced.

A 2007 email sent from then-Palm CEO Edward Colligan to Jobs:

“Your proposal that we agree that neither company will hire the other’s employees, regardless of the individual’s desires, is not only wrong, it is likely illegal.[…]Palm doesn’t target other companies-we look for the best people we can find. l’d hope the same could be said about Apple’s practices. However, during the last year or so, as Apple geared up to compete with Palm in the phone space, Apple hired at least 2% of Palm’s workforce. To put it in perspective, had Palm done the same, we’d have hired 300 folks from Apple. Instead, to my knowledge, we’ve hired just three.”

Seems pretty damning.

At any rate, Judge Koh, who is also presiding over Apple’s ongoing court battle with Samsung, has scheduled the trial for May 2014. It’s very possible, though, that it could be delayed by motions to appeal from various defendant companies.