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Palm rejected Apple anti-poaching deal

updated 07:55 am EDT, Thu August 20, 2009

Palm Nixed Apple Job Deal

Apple's practice of striking agreements to avoid poaching other companies' workers almost extended to Palm as well, according to a leak of conversations between the two. Just as the US Justice Department has been investigating possible anti-competitive behavior between Apple and Google as well as other technology firms, Bloomberg has reportedly found that since departed Palm chief Ed Colligan rejected a proposal from Apple's Steve Jobs in 2007 that would have prevented either company from hiring each other's employees.

The intercepted communications show Jobs concerned at the time that former Apple executive and then-recent Palm hire Jon Rubinstein was trying to recruit Apple engineers and other employees.

Colligan rejected the notion of a pact as "wrong" and "likely illegal," although Jobs isn't known to have specifically set out any terms in the messages. He had considered making certain concessions before ultimately deciding against any such change. Antitrust law often considers such deals illegal as it risks either reinforcing one company's position or creating duopolies.

Both companies have drawn on each other's talent in the past, but Palm's recruiting during Rubinstein's early role as board chairman is known to have been particularly damaging to Apple. Many of the new hires had worked on either the iPhone or the iPod (partly created by Rubinstein) and worked on what would eventually become the Pre and its webOS platform. The smartphone is not only one of the very few to support true multi-touch like the iPhone, raising concerns of possible patent infringement, but takes advantage of the former Apple staff's experience to sync with iTunes, a feature that has triggered a more active conflict between the two as Apple has tried but so far failed to specifically exclude Palm's devices from its software.

Palm has so far defended itself by arguing that it has a safe patent portfolio of its own that would protect multi-touch as well as making allegations that Apple is abusing its privileges under the USB standard to prevent other devices from working properly. It has also remained undeterred by Jobs' requests, as Rubinstein has only gained more importance at Palm and replaced Colligan as CEO shortly after the Pre launch.

Neither Apple nor Palm has agreed to comment on the apparent discovery.



By Electronista Staff
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Comments

  1. Fast iBook

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Mar 2003

    -3

    Am i the only one..

    Am i the only one who is tired of the palm pre ads on nearly every macnn page? It's macnn, all most no one into macs is going to get a pre, so, why shove it in my face?

    - A

  1. climacs

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: Sep 2001

    +7

    it's news

    Geez if it bugs you so much then don't read it. I think it's obvious that news about the Palm Pre is newsworthy in relation to the iPhone.

    What I am tired of is looking at that awful photo of the Palm Pre next to the apple core, as if somebody threw it out in the garbage. The art director who approved that should be canned!

  1. crackedpot

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Sep 2008

    +2

    I prefer poached eggs

    someone once told me this was an electronics site when I said who cares about the zune. It appears there is too much of a fine line with electronista and macnn. I for one prefer to just get my mac news and usually scoff at all the other junk. but once in a while I have to admit I don't mind. It's much better than the Dan's from Macworld though.

  1. crackedpot

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Sep 2008

    -1

    I prefer poached eggs

    someone once told me this was an electronics site when I said who cares about the zune. It appears there is too much of a fine line with electronista and macnn. I for one prefer to just get my mac news and usually scoff at all the other junk. but once in a while I have to admit I don't mind. It's much better than the Dan's from Macworld though.

  1. pairof9s

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: Jan 2008

    -1

    It seems strange

    That in an age of non-compete clauses and non-disclosure agreements at just about any information-based corporation that poaching discussions like this would be deemed illegal seems a bit contradictory.

    Granted, poaching agreements like this do appear to be an obstruction to one's freedom to choose where they wish to work. Still, if such NCC's and NDA's exist predominantly, how does poaching exceed such restrictions?

    /

  1. slapppy

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Mar 2008

    -2

    Talking more BS

    Yeah right. Palm is so desperate for attention, they'll say anything now to get it.

  1. luckyday

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Apr 2008

    +3

    pairof9s

    A non-compete clause or a non-disclosure agreement is signed and consented to by an employee when they sign an employment contract, or at some point during their term.

    Conversely, a non-poaching agreement is not an agreement between the employee and the employer, but two employers. The effect of this is that the employee would be restricted from working for a different employer, despite the fact they never agreed to such a restriction.
    That's why its arguably illegal.

    You can't tell someone they are ineligible to work for a different company, when they never agreed to that restriction.

    Also, for the record, non-compete clauses are often held unenforceable by courts in the US. In fact, The California State Supreme Court has ruled that non-compete clauses in employment contracts are not enforceable in California. Hmmmm... where are Apple and Palm located?

  1. elroth

    Junior Member

    Joined: Jul 2006

    +1

    non-poaching?

    I think it's quite possible that the non-poaching clause restricts the company from initiating contact with employees of the other company, but allows the employee to initiate contact and ultimately work for the other company.

    That's what I would hope, anyway, and that would have a much greater chance of being legal.

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001

    -4

    Re: non-poaching

    That's what I would hope, anyway, and that would have a much greater chance of being legal.

    Why would you hope that? Are you the head of a company with non-poaching agreements with a bunch of other companies?

  1. shawnde

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Apr 2008

    +1

    re: pairof9s

    @luckyday

    You're quite correct with regards to the rights of the employee.

    However, I think the main reason for seeking the non-poaching agreements is the mere fact which you point out in your last paragraph : i.e. in California non-compete clauses are un-enforceable, which means they're useless.

    Hence why the employers are trying to set a pact, where they will agree to a employer-sanctioned non-compete clause which MAY be enforceable. Google is also in California.

    The legality of both of these mechanisms is questionable at best.

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