Apple has scored a minor victory in a breach-of-contract court battle with a former Apple executive who worked on the A-series chips that power the Cupertino firm’s iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Apple TV devices.
Back in August, Apple sued former A-series chip development lead, Gerard Williams III, for breach-of-employment-contract. Williams, who worked on the A-series chips from the A7 to the A12X, left the company in March 2019 to start his own chip company, Nuvia Inc, with two other former Apple chip executives.
A request by Williams to toss a breach-of-contract lawsuit brought by the company was rejected by Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Mark Pierce in a tentative ruling.
Apple accuses Williams of breaching the contract because it barred him from planning or engaging in any business activities that are “competitive or directly related to Apple’s business or products.” Williams’ position is that California law allows workers to develop new businesses, even as they’re employed by another company.
However, Bloomberg on Sunday reported Judge Pierce ruled the law doesn’t permit an employee “to plan and prepare to create a competitive enterprise prior to termination if the employee does so on their employer’s time and with the employer’s resources.”
The judge also dismissed a claim by Williams that Apple invaded his privacy by viewing text messages to coworkers that were critical of the Cupertino company. Williams is said to have stated in one of the messages that Apple would have “no choice but to purchase” his new company.
Williams also scored a victory as Judge Pierce dismissed Apple’s bid for punitive damages, saying the company failed to show how Williams intentionally tried to harm Apple by being disloyal.
While the tentative ruling doesn’t address the merits of Apple’s claims, it will allow the company to proceed with pretrial information-sharing if the judge makes it final.
Williams’ lawyer, Claude Stern, has said he will contest the judge’s findings at a hearing in San Jose on Tuesday.