IBM is suing executive Mark Papermaster, vice president of the company's blade server development unit, to prevent his move to Apple. In a complaint, Big Blue says Papermaster "is in possession of significant and highly-confidential IBM trade secrets and know-how, as well as highly sensitive information regarding business strategy and long-term opportunities."
The company says that Papermaster signed a non-compete agreement in 2006 (PDF download) and needs to stick with it. IBM says it will suffer irreparable harm if Papermaster goes to Apple. In the complaint (PDF) , IBM lays out Papermaster's history, which includes 26 years at Big Blue, extensive knowledge of semiconductors and strategic planning.
Papermaster is IBM's top expert in "Power" architecture and technology, and he is privy to a whole host of trade secrets and confidences belonging to IBM that the company uses to design, develop and manufacture its products.
The big question here is what Papermaster will do with his microprocessor knowledge at Apple (Techmeme). CNET News' Tom Krazit speculates that Papermaster's hiring may indicate Apple is serious about its Xserve enterprise lineup. However, that theory may be a stretch. More likely is Papermaster's blade knowledge will be used to support Apple's nascent cloud services (it could use the help on MobileMe). I seriously doubt that one hire is going to turn Apple into an enterprise technology player.
IBM's biggest worry is that Papermaster is part of a select group of executives that has access to the company's "substantial investment in research and innovation." Simply put, IBM has a huge research arm that cooks up all kinds of neat gadgets that it will never take to market. That kind of know-how coupled with Apple's design and marketing heft could be dangerous.
What's unclear is whether a judge will view Papermaster's non-compete clause as iron-clad or reckon that IBM is a jilted employer. IBM said on Oct. 20 it offered Papermaster "a substantial increase in his total compensation package" to keep him. IBM also agreed to pay Papermaster a one-year salary if he's refrain from working for a competitor for a year. Papermaster resigned Oct. 21 and that he'd begin work with Apple in November.
IBM is seeking an injunction to keep Papermaster from breaching his noncompete agreement, attorney fees and other damages the court sees fit.