Judge tells Apple exec to stop work

The court of public opinion is now in session.On 4 November 2008 Apple hired IBM PowerPC expert Mark Papermaster to replace Tony Fadell, its outgoing SVP of the iPod division.

The court of public opinion is now in session.

On 4 November 2008 Apple hired IBM PowerPC expert Mark Papermaster to replace Tony Fadell, its outgoing SVP of the iPod division. Papermaster accepted the position as Apple's senior vice president of Devices Hardware Engineering after a 25 year stint at IBM.

Reuters reports that U.S. District Court judge Kenneth Karas ordered that Papermaster "immediately cease his employment with Apple Inc until further order of this court" because he might be violating a one-year non-compete agreement he signed with his former employer, IBM.

ComputerWorld's Seth Weintraub reports that Papermaster agreed that he will not (within 1 year of termination) “engage in or associate with (a) any ‘Business Enterprise’ or (b) any significant competitor or major competitor of the Company…”. Since it probably wouldn't be too much of a stretch to call Apple a "significant" or "major" competitor, the agreement would appear to be iron clad.

BTL's Larry Dignan asks the pertinent question: exactly how binding is a non-compete agreement? Does the fact that IBM manufacturers microprocessors prevent Papermaster from working at any company that uses such chips? While I'm definitely not a lawyer, that interpretation may be a little over-reaching if it precludes him from earning a living.

If you really want to jump into the fray, BTL has posted Papermaster’s reply (PDF) to IBM’s original suit, Big Blue’s reply (PDF) and the judge’s call (PDF).

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