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BlackBerry SVP attempts to bolt for Apple, gets sued

updated 09:16 pm EDT, Tue March 25, 2014

Court rules software chief must stay at job until June

A court in Ottawa has ruled in a lawsuit brought by BlackBerry against one of its own employees. The firm sued its own senior vice president of software, Sebastien Marineau-Mes, when he announced that he would be leaving the floundering smartphone company to take a job as Vice President of Core OS at Apple last December.

The court found that Marineau-Mes had agreed to give six months notice before leaving BlackBerry when he accepted the contract that promoted him to his current SVP job -- ironically, Marineau-Mes signed the contract in September while he was also talking to Apple about the position he eventually wanted to leave BlackBerry to take. The verdict was that Marineau-Mes will have to stay on at his job until June, having given his notice in December. He had originally planned to leave BlackBerry in February and go directly to Cupertino to start his new position.

Whether Apple will still want to take Marineu-Mes by the time June rolls around remains to be seen. It formally offered him the job in December, but the entire incident has unpleasant similarities to the story of former IBM executive Mark Papermaster, who was wooed to Apple but became ensnarled in a nasty court battle between the two tech giants over him. Papermaster eventually landed at Apple in 2009 but lasted less than a year (replacing Tony Fadell as SVP of iPod and iPhone development) before being dismissed by Steve Jobs due to Papermaster's inability to fit into the corporate culture there -- a perception Jobs had gained during Papermaster's original interview for a different position. Papermaster is now CTO of AMD.

Marineau-Mes originally came to BlackBerry through the latter company's purchase of QNX, the foundation of the software seen in BlackBerry's short-lived Playbook tablet and now in its BB10 smartphones. A company representatives called the lawsuit over Marineau-Mes "unfortunate" but maintained in court that it expected the executive to honor his commitment, "just as he would expect that we will honor ours." BlackBerry said in a statement that it "will not stand by while a former employee violates his employment contract ... we are pleased that the court has endorsed our position and ruled that the employee contract and its terms are valid."

Unless the judgement is reversed on appeal, Marineau-Mes will have to wait until June 23 to formally leave BlackBerry. He was, prior to the discovery of his intended defection, well-regarded at BlackBerry for his software and operating-system knowledge. Should he eventually land at Apple, he will be working directly with SVP of Software Craig Federighi on both OS X and iOS.

By Electronista Staff
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