DailyTech previously covered iPod creator and team leader Tony Fadell's departure from his role at Apple, and his replacement by Mark Papermaster. Mr. Papermaster was very enthusiastic to get to work reinvigorated the iPod franchise. Apple CEO Steve Jobs set him to work right away. The only problem -- it may have been illegal for him to work for Apple.
Apple snagged Mark Papermaster, former manager of IBM's critical blade server business and mastermind of the PowerPCs, after wooing him away from the Big Blue. Mr. Papermaster was obviously the kind of person needed to lead the iPod business. There was only one tiny problem -- he had signed a non-compete contract with IBM.
A non-compete clause is a legal device found in some contracts, under which an employee agrees to not work for competitors for a set period of time after leaving the company. For Mr. Papermaster, that period was one year. However, after resigning from IBM on October 21, Mr. Papermaster started working for Apple at the start of November, throwing caution, and perhaps legality, to the wind.
IBM unsurprisingly filed suit against Mr. Papermaster and Apple. Now a judge has ordered Mr. Papermaster to stop performing work at Apple for the time being, until the case is resolved.
Big Blue is pushing hard for punishment against Mr. Papermaster for deserting its "elite Integration & Values Team" -- a special 300 person team within the company. It says that aside from the strictly binding non-compete contract, Mr. Papermaster is "privy to a whole host of trade secrets and confidences" of IBM. According to some reports, Apple is indeed hoping to milk Mr. Papermaster for his inside scoop on everything from enterprise-class server hardware to Power processors for small devices.
IBM is also fearful that Mr. Papermaster may have approached IBM employees about leaving IBM for Apple. Another clause of Mr. Papermaster's contract prevents him from soliciting employees to join him at his new company for two full years after ceasing employment with IBM.
As to the current state of the case, IBM seems relatively unwilling to compromise. Mr. Papermaster recently received some negative press, when Information Week misquoted him as saying, "I do not recall a single instance of Apple being described as a competitor of IBM during my entire tenure at IBM."
The quote, which led to much mockery among the tech news community, was actually taken out of context; Mr. Papermaster actually stated, "Until this litigation effort by IBM, aside from the divested IBM personal computer business and a single sale several years ago of Apple’s Xserve product to a university, I do not recall a single instance of Apple being described as a competitor of IBM during my entire tenure at IBM."
Mr. Papermaster has vigorously defended the propriety of his behavior both at IBM and with leaving the company, claiming he showed the utmost deference and transparence.
Nonetheless, his removal from being able to head the iPod division casts Apple's ranks into disorder.