A court filing just made public sheds light on the “no-hire” gentleman’s agreements that have pervaded the tech industry. It reveals how Steve Jobs threatened litigation to prevent companies from stealing his staff.
Notably, former Palm CEO Edward Colligan has made a statement that points out that the company was threatened with patent litigation if it didn’t stop poaching staff from Apple. In the legal filing, Colligan explains how Jobs suggested that “if Palm did not agree to such an agreement, Palm could face lawsuits alleging infringement of Apple’s many patents”. An email that made up part of the discussions is pictured below, in which Jobs points out the asymmetry of the situation, writing: “I’m sure you realise the asymmetry in the financial resources of our respective companies when you say: ‘We will both just end up paying a lot of lawyers a lot of money.'” Nice.
Of course, it’s not just Apple and Palm that are being investigated: this publicly available court filing is in fact part of civil lawsuit investigating “gentleman’s agreements” between the likes of Apple, Google, Intel and plenty more. Indeed, part of the filing brings to light documents showing do-not-hire lists from the likes of Apple, Adobe and others. Who knows what other juicy morsels are yet to be made public.