Ap­ple-Google anti-com­pet­i­tive law­suit goes vi­ral

Case sparks new claims against other firms

The Star Early Edition - - BUSINESS REPORT/INTERNATIONAL - Joel Rosen­blatt San Jose, Cal­i­for­nia

EV­I­DENCE pro­duced against Ap­ple, Google and some Sil­i­con Val­ley co­horts about an al­leged con­spir­acy not to re­cruit each other’s em­ploy­ees has sparked new law­suits claim­ing other tech and en­ter­tain­ment com­pa­nies en­gage in the same an­ti­com­pet­i­tive con­duct.

Pixar pres­i­dent Ed­win Cat­mull ac­knowl­edged the use of such agree­ments when he was ques­tioned by lawyers for thou­sands of em­ploy­ees who sued his company, along with Ap­ple, Google and four oth­ers, in 2011.

Cat­mull said he was try­ing to help the in­dus­try sur­vive by stop­ping hir­ing raids, re­marks that trig­gered com­plaints in the last three months against an­i­ma­tion stu­dios in Cal­i­for­nia.

Like­wise, a Google doc­u­ment re­vealed in the case from three years ago – the search en­gine owner’s 2007 “Re­stricted Hir­ing” and “Do Not Cold Call” lists of the com­pa­nies it agreed not to re­cruit from – has resur­faced as key ev­i­dence in com­plaints brought in the last two months against Or­a­cle, Mi­crosoft and IAC/In­ter­Ac­tive Cor­po­ra­tion.

The new com­plaints come as Ap­ple, Google, In­tel and Adobe Sys­tems face a trial over the orig­i­nal law­suit in April with po­ten­tial da­m­ages of $9 bil­lion (R100bn) be­cause they failed to win ap­proval to set­tle the claims for $324.5 mil­lion.

The lit­i­ga­tion was “mush­room­ing”, Orly Lo­bel, a law pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of San Diego, said. “Once there’s a vis­i­ble test case, you look around to see where else it’s hap­pen­ing, and the next cases are eas­ier to put to­gether.”

The Ap­ple-Google case, in its novel ap­pli­ca­tion of tra­di­tional price-fix­ing claims to labour mar­kets, was serv­ing as a tem­plate for a new wave of group law­suits, she said.

The newer cases are as­signed to US Dis­trict Judge Lucy H Koh, who is­sued a crit­i­cal rul­ing last year al­low­ing the orig­i­nal one to ad­vance as a class ac­tion. In Au­gust she took the un­usual step of re­ject­ing the pro­posed set­tle­ment amount as too small, cit­ing “am­ple ev­i­dence of an over­ar­ch­ing con­spir­acy”.

The first new com­plaint was filed a month later, nam­ing DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion, Walt Dis­ney and three of its units and two Sony units as de­fen­dants. Em­ploy­ees al­leged that Steve Jobs helped es­tab­lish the an­i­ma­tion in­dus­try nopoach­ing pact in his role as co­founder of Pixar.

The 64 000 work­ers cov­ered by the orig­i­nal case in­clude soft­ware and hard­ware en­gi­neers, pro­gram­mers and other tech­ni­cal staff. The newer cases in­clude man­agers and dig­i­tal artists.

Fol­low­ing a US Jus­tice Depart­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Ap­ple, Google, In­tel, Adobe, In­tuit and Pixar agreed in 2010 to end il­le­gal fix­ing and sup­pres­sion of com­pen­sa­tion.

Walt Dis­ney’s Pixar and Lu­cas­film, which agreed along with In­tuit to set­tle the 2011 case for $20m last year, are the only firms be­ing sued again.

The al­leged con­spir­acy by the an­i­ma­tion com­pa­nies dates back to the mid-1980s, when George Lu­cas sold his com­puter di­vi­sion to Jobs, who had left his po­si­tion as Ap­ple’s chief ex­ec­u­tive and started Pixar.

The an­i­ma­tion com­pa­nies con­tend the new law­suits are “be­lated at­tempts to spin off fresh lit­i­ga­tion from a Depart­ment of Jus­tice in­ves­ti­ga­tion that be­gan more than five years ago”, and never led to any gov­ern­ment ac­tion against most of the em­ploy­ers be­ing tar­geted, ac­cord­ing to a court fil­ing. – Bloomberg


A Google doc­u­ment re­vealed in the orig­i­nal case three years ago is be­ing used as ev­i­dence. The search en­gine owner’s 2007 ‘Re­stricted Hir­ing’ and ‘Do Not Cold Call’ doc­u­ment lists com­pa­nies it agreed not to re­cruit from.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.