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Apple's Papermaster countersues IBM

According to court documents, lawyers for Papermaster plan to claim that Big Blue's noncompete agreement is too broad and shouldn't apply to a consumer electronics company.

Apple's iPhone man-in-waiting, Mark Papermaster, has filed a countersuit against his former employer in a dispute over a noncompete agreement.

InformationWeek spotted the court documents filed late Thursday in federal court in New York claiming that IBM's noncompete agreement with Papermaster shouldn't apply to his potential employment at Apple, since the two companies are not competitors in the arena where Papermaster will be employed. In October, Apple hired Papermaster to replace outgoing iPod executive Tony Fadell and lead the development of future versions of the iPhone, but IBM is suing to prevent him from working for Apple for a year.

Papermaster's counterclaim focuses on the clauses of the noncompete agreement, arguing that it is too broad and would not permit Papermaster to work for any technology company anywhere in the world for a year following his departure from IBM.

The "Business Enterprise" restriction is unreasonably broad in that it purports to restrict Mr. Papermaster from going to work for any company that engages in competition with his former business unit to any extent, even if Mr. Papermaster will not be working for the part of the company that does so. Likewise, the "significant competitor or major competitor" prong purports to restrict Mr. Papermaster from going to work for one of these companies even if the work that Mr. Papermaster will be doing is completely unrelated to the work he was doing at IBM. These provisions are not necessary to protect any legitimate interests of IBM.

The Noncompetition Agreement is also unreasonably broad in that it purports to impose an unreasonably lengthy time limitation. In the world of technology, any trade secrets that Mr. Papermaster possesses would lose their value prior to the expiration of a year. The purported geographic scope of the "Restricted Area" is similarly unreasonable. Mr. Papermaster has resided and worked in Austin, Texas for the past 17 years, yet the language of the Noncompetition Agreement purports to restrict him from working anywhere in the world based on the global scope of IBM's business. Again, these restrictions are not necessary to protect any legitimate interests of IBM.

IBM has successfully obtained a preliminary injunction preventing Papermaster from reporting for duty at Apple, but it seems that's a pretty standard decision in cases such as these. The two parties are scheduled to have a status conference regarding the case on Tuesday.