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IBM lawsuit over "racetrack" memory secrets, iPod

updated 12:50 am EST, Thu November 13, 2008

IBM fears secrets in iPod

Recent filings in the Apple-IBM-Papermaster case reveal that IBM is potentially raising a flag due to an upcoming technology that the company fears could be compromised by Mark Papermaster's employ at Apple. The technology, noted in the Times Online (classified Exhibit 3 in the case), would allow portable consumer devices like the iPod to store exponentially more music, while also cutting battery drain to a fraction of what it is currently. The technology is dubbed "racetrack memory."

Racetrack memory allegedly uses an electron's spin to keep track of data, increasing operational speed, and providing an operational time frame of "weeks" on a single charge. The technology, in turn, would allow consumer electronics devices to store upwards of 500,000 songs, comparing to 40,000 in the 160GB iPod classic.

The technology will also have virtually zero wear, and consequently carries a longer lifespan than flash memory, which can wear out over thousands of writes.

Oddly enough, Papermaster was not the top choice for the position within Apple. AppleInsider reveals that Papermaster was part of a second tier fallback plan to find a new mobile device head after failing to find an exact match to its stringent requirements. Apple settled on the former IBM employee after discovering his "dynamic personality," after initially placing him as the sixth candidate out of eight, saying his semiconductor understanding is key, but is otherwise "a long shot."

Apple has, in the past, proven that employees not only require excellent knowledge of a given field, but that they also mesh will in senior positions with upper management. Papermaster himself would report directly to Steve Jobs, a position of honor for some, but one that can be trying with his strict demands. Papermaster was initially offered a position developing Macs, given his history in servers.

When first making the decision to leave IBM, Papermaster was not met with any resistance from superiors, other than disappointment, requests for him to stay, and well wishes. The issue of non-competition was supposedly raised during conversations, with no indicators of the current situation present. IBM reversed its position after making a second attempt to retain Papermaster, laced with the question of whether he had thought of his family in making this decision.

Papermaster argues that IBM's broad terminology in its non-competition clauses could lead him to be unemployed by the entire tech industry, making him less useful to a future company due to dated knowledge. He also argues that the treatment he's received has marred his ability to work for IBM again in the future.

Should Papermaster lose all benefits with IBM, including thousands of dollars in stocks, Apple's offer is supplementary, offering him expense coverage for travel, moving, and more.

By Electronista Staff
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  1. beb

    Mac Elite

    Joined: Jan 2002


    IBM, Apple, Intel, etc...

    Retaining and entrapping employees in bizarre legal scenarios in order to retain their expertise, knowledge and methods should not be the business of any company that operates or does business in America.

    Idealistic am I...

  1. TomSawyer

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jan 2008


    Why doesn't Apple

    just buy IBM and then they can make use of Papermaster however they want?

  1. sribe

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jan 2003



    Apple most certainly would not take on the development & manufacture of racetrack memory! They would simply buy it! Lots of it, possibly involving up-front cash and exclusive contracts like they did with Flash memory a few years ago...

  1. Dez

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jul 2002


    Isn't patent enough?

    Surely IBM have patented their tech - isn't that enough to stop Apple copying via Papermaster? I agree with scribe... if Apple want it, they would either licence IBM's tech, or just buy some chips from them. In fact, if I were IBM, I'd be delighted at having 'infiltrated' Apple with someone who might steer Apple towards buying IBM tech/products. Unfortunately, it sounds like Papermaster has been rather disaffected by his treatment, so I guess they have burned that bridge now.

  1. luckyday

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Apr 2008


    Apple buy IBM?

    IBM is a much bigger company in terms of assets, revenue and profit than Apple. IBM's net income is more than double Apples.

    Get real!

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