Steve Jobs threatened Palm with patent suit if it objected to no-poaching pact

Jobs made threat shortly before former Apple executives officially joined Palm, documents reveal

By Loek Essers, IDG News Service |  IT Management

"I can't deny people who elect to pursue their livelihood at Palm the right to do so simply because they now work for Apple, and I wouldn't want you to do that to current Palm employees," he wrote to Jobs.


Image credit: U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California


Image credit: U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California


Image credit: U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California

During the year before the email exchange, Apple hired "at least" 2 percent of Palm's workforce, Colligan said. If Palm had hired the same percentage of workers from Apple in that period, that would have amounted to about 300 people, he said. "Instead, to my knowledge, we have only hired three."

"Threatening Palm with a patent lawsuit in response to a decision by one employee to leave Apple is just out of line," Colligan said, without identifying the employee. A lawsuit between the companies would not serve the interests of either of them and wouldn't stop employees from migrating between them, he wrote. "We will both just end up paying a lot of lawyers a lot of money," he said.

Colligan also said he was not intimidated by Job's threat, and pointed out Palm's own patent portfolio that could be used to file response claims.

"Ed, This is not satisfactory to Apple," wrote Jobs in an email response to Colligan. It was not just a matter of Apple employees deciding to join Palm. They were actively recruited using knowledge supplied by Jon Rubinstein, former senior vice president of hardware engineering and head of Apple's iPod division, Jobs wrote in August 2007. Rubinstein officially joined Palm as executive chairman of the board in October 2007 and replaced Colligan as CEO in 2009.


Image credit: U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California

"We must do whatever we can to stop this," Jobs wrote in the email.

Knowledge about Apple employees was also supplied by Fred Anderson, a former Apple CFO, according to Jobs. Anderson joined Palm's board of directors at the same time Rubinstein became chairman.

"I'm sure you realize the asymmetry in the financial resources of our respective companies when you say: 'We will both just end up paying a lot of lawyers a lot of money'," Jobs wrote, adding that he was not impressed by Palm's patent portfolio. "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," he said.

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