Apple, A123 to settle lawsuit over poached battery engineers

The two companies face a May 27 deadline on a motion to move the case, but a settlement is near, say court documents

Electric car battery maker A123 Systems is close to settling a lawsuit alleging Apple poached some of its top employees.

A123 has requested a new extension to reply to Apple's motion to move to the case from federal court in Massachusetts to one in northern California, saying a settlement was near, according to court documents filed Monday.

A123 and Apple "have reached an agreement, signed a term sheet, and are in the process of drafting a final settlement agreement," said the document.

A123 initially had until May 6 to reply to Apple's motion. The new extension moves that deadline to May 27. Neither Apple nor lawyers for A123 replied to requests for comment.

In the initial lawsuit, A123 claimed Apple "raided" the Waltham, Massachusetts, company and hired five employees, including two top-level engineers. The loss of these workers essentially forced A123 to shut down some of its main projects, the suit alleged.

A123 alleged its former workers were helping Apple develop batteries that could be used in an electric car it was supposedly building. The lawsuit, filed in February, fanned speculation that Apple was entering the automotive space.

Apple had attempted to have the case dismissed, calling the charges speculative, or moved to a court in California because the former A123 employees now work in the state.

The lawsuit is the latest chapter in A123's saga. After going public in 2009, the company later went bankrupt. Chinese auto parts maker Wanxiang Group eventually purchased A123 for around US$257 million in 2013.

Fred O'Connor writes about IT careers and health IT for The IDG News Service. Follow Fred on Twitter at @fredjoconnor. Fred's e-mail address is fred_o'connor@idg.com

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