Apple is suing the founder of semiconductor start-up Nuvia, who they claim broke his contract an ex-employee and violated the company's trust.

Gerard Williams III in February quit Apple, and went on to found Nuvia, along with two other ex-Apple staff, John Bruno, and Manu Gulati.

While at Apple, Williams oversaw design work on the company’s Arm-based processors for mobile devices. His new company Nuvia was first publicly revealed in November following a $53m investment by several prominent backers. The company hopes to design Arm-based microchips for use in data centers, a market sector currently dominated by x86 providers like Intel or AMD.

Employee agreement Apple.PNG
– Apple's Employee Agreement signed by Gerard Williams III

The contract

Apple's main contention with Nuvia and its founder lies within Section 2.0 of the Employment Agreement that Williams signed on January 7, 2010. The agreement stipulates that the new employee must respect the technology and intellectual property of the company.

Section 2.0 reads: "You understand that your employment by Apple creates a relationship of confidence and trust with respect to any information of a confidential, proprietary, and secret nature that may be disclosed to you or otherwise learned by you in the course of your employment at Apple, including but not limited to any confidential information of third parties disclosed to Apple."

It continues: "You understand and agree that your employment by Apple requires you to keep all proprietary information in confidence and trust for the tenure of your employment and thereafter. and that you will not use or disclose Proprietary Information without the written consent of Apple, except as necessary to perform your duties as an employee of Apple."

Apple Flag
– Sebastian Moss

The case

Apple’s Complaint, filed back in August, accuses Williams of “exploiting” the company for personal gain. The Complaint reads: “By 2018, Williams had started his new venture on Apple's dime. He called it Nuvia. Though he remained on Apple’s payroll, Williams’s focus turned from Apple to Nuvia.

"Williams boasted about starting a new company with technology that he was working on at Apple [which] he believed Apple 'needed' and that he believed Apple would have no choice but to purchase." The multi-billion dollar company is now seeking damages against Williams.

Nuvia's VP of marketing, Jon Carvill, told DCD: “There is not much we can add beyond what is in the objection that was filed with the court. What I can say is we believe Gerard has compelling defenses to the claims that are made.”

Williams’s Demurrer (defense) argues the contract he signed was illegal because it violated California's "Business and Profession Code" and that he had announced his plans to quit Apple in January to spend more time with his family rather than start Nuvia, which is what Apple claims.

Nuvia
Nuvia's founders John Bruno, Gerard Williams III and Manu Gulati – Nuvia

The Nuvia founder also raised issues about privacy in the Demurrer. A footnote in the document says that although Apple launched the "Privacy: That’s iPhone” ad campaign earlier this year, it has gone on to use text messages and emails from Williams and staff as a part of its evidence.

The document reads: "To further intimidate any current Apple employee who might dare consider leaving Apple, Apple’s Complaint shows that it is monitoring and examining its employees’ phone records and text messages, in a stunning and disquieting invasion of privacy."

The court hearing is scheduled for January 21 at Santa Clara Superior Court.