Apple is willing to settle the lawsuit filed against it by A123 Systems, a maker of Lithium-ion batteries that accuses Apple of poaching its high-level automotive engineers.
In a document filed before the federal district court of Boston, Apple requested that the court grant an extension until March 11 for the iPhone maker to respond to A123's allegations. The request was granted and favored by the Waltham, Massachusetts-based battery maker. Reuters reports that Apple asked for the extension because "they are exploring potential resolution."
Last month, A123 filed a lawsuit against Apple for poaching five of its high-level technical employees, all with deep experience in automotive engineering, and sued its former and current employees for breaking their employment agreements. A123 also charged Apple with misappropriating trade secrets and tortious interference for encouraging A123's employees to leave the battery maker while still on contract.
In its lawsuit, A123 said it believes Apple is aggressively going after its employees because it plans to start its own battery-making operations for its own vehicle, which is believed to be up for production in 2020.
"Upon information and belief, all of the individual defendants are working in a field of battery science, technology, and/or products that are substantially similar if not identical to the field they worked in at A123," says [pdf] A123.
The iPhone maker has mainly stuck to its core business of iPhones, iPads, and Mac computers, and an electric vehicle that is possibly self-driving is a huge shift from what Apple has been doing since its inception, which means Apple could be looking for technical experts well-versed in the new industry it is planning to break through.
Rumors of an Apple car broke last month when a self-driving van equipped with sensors on top that leased to Apple was seen cruising along the streets of San Francisco. Days later, multiple reports from various media outlets claimed Apple was indeed working on a vehicle in development under a project codenamed Titan. The Wall Street Journal said Apple has assembled a team of more than 200 engineers in a tightly-wound project that aims to rival Tesla.
Apple began poaching A123 employees in 2014, when Apple welcomed onboard Mujeeb Ijaz, a former A123 engineer who founded the firm's venture technologies division, which specializes in materials research, cell product development, and other advanced battery making concept. The timeline indicates Apple has been working on a car-related project since last year.
A123's lithium batteries are used for a variety of applications, but its specialty lies in developing batteries that are used to power big machines, such as cars. A123 was backed by a $249 million grant from the federal government but filed for bankruptcy in 2012. In 2013, Wanxiang Group Corp. purchased A123 for an undisclosed amount following its bankruptcy.
The firm says Apple's poaching of its top-ranking employees has vastly harmed the company's capabilities because of the difficulty in finding engineers who are qualified for the highly technical nature of the work.
Photo: Christopher Aloi | Flickr