Judge greenlights Apple’s lawsuit against former chip engineer

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Apple sues former chief architect of iPhone chips
Apple is suing its former chip engineer, center, for breach of contract.
Photo: Nuvia

A chip engineer who left Apple to start a new company lost ground in court after a judge allowed the tech giant to move forward with a breach-of-contract suit against him.

Gerard Williams III asked Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Mark Pierce to dismiss the suit, saying California law allows people to plan new business ventures while employed elsewhere. But Pierce denied the request, telling Williams the law doesn’t allow people to “create a competitive enterprise … on their employer’s time and with the employer’s resources.”

Williams worked for Apple for 10 years, becoming one of the main architects of Apple’s mobile platform. He oversaw the design of chips for iPhones and iPads. Williams left last year to start Nuvia, which develops processors for data centers, according to a Bloomberg report. Williams later recruited former Apple co-workers to join him at Nuvia.

Pierce also struck down a claim by Williams that Apple violated his privacy when it reviewed text messages critical of Cupertino.

Apple and Gerard Williams III will face off in court

Williams’ attorney, Claude Stern, likely will contest the judge’s ruling in a hearing this week in San Jose, according to Bloomberg. Stern said the company should not be allowed to sue Williams for having a business idea. He said his client did not take intellectual property belonging to Apple.

Still, don’t count the judge’s decision to greenlight Apple’s lawsuit as a total victory for Cupertino. Pierce rejected Apple’s bid for punitive damages in the case. He said he saw no evidence Pierce acted disloyally or tried to harm the company. However, Apple can present details on its claims against Williams during pretrial hearings.