Apple is suing an ex-employee who helped design iPhone and iPad chips up until the start of this year. Gerard Williams III left Apple earlier in 2019 to start a chip startup, Nuvia, which has hired at least 8 other former Apple workers.
And Apple’s none too happy about it.
Nuvia announced its existence last month. At the time, it revealed that it had raised $53 million in funding. The company is making processors for data centers.
But Apple’s not pleased. Its suit against Williams alleges that his work to get Nuvia off the ground represented a breach of contract and breach of duty of loyalty. That’s because he was planning the company and recruiting employees while still at Apple.
“This case involves a worst-case scenario for an innovative company like Apple,” Apple noted in its filing. “A trusted senior director with years of experience, and years of access to Apple’s most valuable information, secretly starts a competing company leveraging the very technology the director was working on, and the same teams he was working with, while still employed by Apple.”
Apple wants an injunction and is looking for punitive damages.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Williams III worked at Apple from February 2010 to February 2019. He was Chief Architect for all Apple CPU and SOC development.
Apple suing chief iPhone chip designer
Nuvia, however, is fighting back. “Apple, an early beneficiary of the creative forces that formed and continue to drive Silicon Valley, has filed this lawsuit in a desperate effort to shut down lawful employment by a former employee,” it claims.
The company also accuses Apple of a “stunning and disquieting” violation of employee privacy. “To further intimidate any current Apple employee who might dare consider leaving Apple, Apple’s complaint shows that it is monitoring and examining its employees’ phone records and text messages,” the complaint notes.
That certainly seems to go against Apple’s publicly pro-privacy stance. Tim Cook has pushed user privacy as one of his big ideas while at the helm at Apple. Few people would logically expect that same exact stance to apply to employees. But this could still be spun as a bad look for Apple.