Anti-poaching suit involving Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe hits snag

A new tech trial drama on the way? A new federal court turn-of-events could pave the way.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

Now that patent suit/trolling wars seem to be on their way out of fashion, the stage is set for another kind of legal battle in the high-tech world.

Judge Lucy Koh, of Apple v. Samsung fame, just struck down a $324.5 million settlement achieved in a class action suit between a group of former tech employees and some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley, alleging there was a secret pact not to steal each others' staff. 

Those companies include Apple, Google, Adobe, and Intel -- and by extensionPixar, Lucasfilm, and Intuit, which resulted in a previous settlement in 2013.

Here in lies the snag for Judge Koh.

Quite simply, the federal judge didn't think that $324.5 million was enough for the present settlement in comparison to the 2013 settlement.

Here's an excerpt from the lengthy order out of the U.S. District Court in San Jose on Friday afternoon:

This Court has lived with this case for nearly three years, and during that time, the Court has reviewed a significant number of documents in adjudicating not only the substantive motions, but also the voluminous sealing requests. Having done so, the Court cannot conclude that the instant settlement falls within the range of reasonableness. As this Court stated in its summary judgment order, there is ample evidence of an overarching conspiracy between the seven Defendants, including “[t]he similarities in the various agreements, the small number of intertwining high-level executives who entered into and enforced the agreements, Defendants’ knowledge about the other agreements, the sharing and benchmarking of confidential compensation information among Defendants and even between firms that did not have bilateral anti-solicitation agreements, along with Defendants’ expansion and attempted expansion of the anti-solicitation agreements.”

Now that the $324.5 million agreement has been tossed out, it is possible that the matter could go to trial if the damages figure isn't boosted significantly -- or to at least $380 million, as suggested by Judge Koh.

Both the plaintiffs and defendants have presented arguments against going to trial, most of which Judge Koh dismissed in her court order on Friday.

For a look at the entire 32-page order, scroll through the document below.


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