Court Filing Reveals Steve Jobs Threatened Palm With Patent Lawsuit To Enforce No-Hire Policy

Steve Jobs & Edward Calligan

Last week, Judge Lucy Koh ordered Tim Cook, Google’s Eric Schmidt, Intel’s Paul Otellini, and other tech company execs to be deposed in a class-action lawsuit filed by tech company employees over “do not call” no poaching practices. This lawsuit, claims not only damage to employee’s potential salaries, but also for violating a 2010 agreement with the Justice Department over the practice.

A new court filing by former Palm CEO Edward Colligan has revealed that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs called him in August 2007, just after the iPhone was launched and  threatened to take legal action for patent infringement against Palm if he did not agree to Apple’s no-hire policy.

The court filing reveals the email communication between Steve Jobs and Colligan after the phone call from Steve Jobs. Colligan sent the following email to Jobs as a response to his proposal:

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 Apple1s 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.

He also told Steve Jobs that Palm wasn’t intimidated by his threat of a patent lawsuit as the company had purchased Siemens patent portfolio from BenQ, which includes over 1500 patent assets. Not surprisingly, this didn’t go down too well with Steve Jobs who fired back with the following response informing Colligan that it wasn’t acceptable to Apple:

Just for the record, when Siemens sold their handset business to BenQ they didn’t sell them their essential patents but rather just gave them a license. The patents they did sell to BenQ are not that great. We looked at them ourselves when they were for sale. I guess you guys felt differently and bought them. We are not concerned about them at all. My advice is to take a look at our patent portfolio before you make a final decision here.

Steve Jobs was concerned that Palm was actively recruiting Apple employees based on the knowledge provided by Jon Rubenstein and Fred Anderson. Jon Rubenstein, a key member of the Steve Jobs’s executive team and the Vice President of the iPod division had left Apple in April 2006.

It remains to be seen how the new court filing will affect the outcome of the case, but it does appear like damning evidence against Steve Jobs and Apple.

I’ve embedded the copy of Colligan’s affidavit below, it’s a good read (and not too long).

Colligan Affidavit by Mikey Campbell

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