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Apple Accused Of Poaching Auto Engineers For Advanced Battery Division

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Apple is said to be building a new battery division that competes directly with a firm that builds lithium-ion batteries for cars and other large vehicles, in a new lawsuit that accuses Apple of poaching engineers from said firm in order to build said division. Battery maker A123 Systems has filed court documents related to the new suit that say Apple has been aggressively pursuing its project-leading engineers, to the extent that the beleaguered A123 Systems (it filed for bankruptcy protection in 2012) has had to shut down some of the projects they’d been leading.

Reuters reports that Apple is accused in the suit of building a “battery division that is similar if not identical to A123’s,” and it also suggests Apple was also looking to hire away battery engineers from LG, Samsung, Panasonic, Toshiba and more. Apple has also hired engineers with car-making expertise from Tesla, which helped kick off the round of rumors and reports regarding Apple’s potential plans of eventually building an electric vehicle of its very own.

As Reuters notes, a total of 11 former A123 engineers now claim Apple as their current employer on LinkedIn, which suggests that there has indeed been a tide of talent moving from the battery maker to the Cupertino-based company. A123’s lawsuit does not specifically claim that Apple’s intent is to build cars or car tech specifically, but the company’s background does suggest that’s a very real possibility.

On the other hand, Apple hiring experts with experience in lithium-ion battery tech makes sense regardless of whether or not it’s used in cars. And given the current state of affairs at A123 Systems, it’s not surprising that its most employable employees would be seeking opportunities elsewhere, with Apple obviously presenting an extremely attractive option. The validity of A123’s claims rely on the fact that it says the employees named in its suit were in violation of their employment agreements in jumping ship, however.

The suit itself isn’t surprising, and likely won’t end up causing much of a stir in terms of its eventual result. But as further evidence that Apple is gearing up with experts in manufacturers of large lithium-ion batteries, including those that power cars, this is indeed an intriguing development.