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Apple sues former iPhone chip designer for breach of contract

Rex Crum, The Mercury News on

Published in Science & Technology News

Apple will be heading to court in January.

The consumer electronics giant is suing Gerard Williams, Apple's former chief architect of iPhone and iPad microprocessors, for breach of contract on the grounds that he started his own chip-design company while still working at Apple. Williams officially left Apple in February 2019 to launch Nuvia, a chip designer for data centers. In November, Nuvia said it had accumulated $53 million in funding.

A hearing on the suit is scheduled to be held in Santa Clara Superior Court on January 21, 2020. In the suit, which Apple originally filed in August, Apple contends that Williams, who began working at the company in 2010, kept secret that he was already working on setting up Nuvia while still in Apple's employment. Apple also argues that Williams recruited Apple employees to his new venture, and that he knew such actions were not permitted under his work agreement with the company.

"Rather than exploiting the technology he was working on for Apple, Williams secretly considered how he could take an opportunity to exploit that technology from Apple," said Apple in the suit. "By 2018, Williams had started his new venture on Apple's dime."

Among the chip technologies that Apple said Williams worked on were the company's A7 processor, which debuted with the iPhone 5s in September 2013, and the A12x chip, which premiered in new iPads in October 2018.

Apple said Williams' actions amounted to a breach of duty and loyalty, and "were done with malice and oppression." Apple is seeking unspecified damages, including punitive damages from Williams.

Williams has countered Apple with a filing in which he argues that Apple's allegations are moot, and is asking the court to throw out Apple's case. In his filing, Williams said Apple's claim that he breached his contract is without merit because the non-compete clauses in his contract actually violate California state law.

 

"Apple cannot state a claim for breach of contract because the underlying contractual provision is illegal," Williams said in his filing. "Apple cannot state a claim for breach of the duty of loyalty because it is preempted by the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act."

Williams also argues that Apple invaded his privacy by using text messages he sent to other colleagues as part of its lawsuit.

An Apple spokesperson said the company had no further comment on the suit. Jon Carvill, Nuvia's vice president of marketing, said, "We believe we have compelling defenses to the claims that are made."

(c)2019 The Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)

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