Steve Jobs Threatened Palm with Patent Suits to Check Employee Poaching

A court filing made public on Tuesday made some explosive revelations about Apple's late co-founder Steve Jobs threatening other companies in the industry with patent-infringement lawsuits to check attrition. During its relevance in the PDA market back in 2007, Palm CEO Edward Colligan received a communication from Jobs threatening to unleash a series of patent-infringement lawsuits if his company didn't stop "poaching" employees from Apple.

The incriminating communication surfaced in a civil lawsuit filed by various tech employees against industry giants Apple, Google, Intel, and others, in which they alleged the companies maintained closed-door agreements such as the one involving Apple and Palm, to prevent talented employees from seeking better paying opportunities, and keeping wages low, in an almost cartel fashion. It also exposes Apple's double-standards in maintaining a large portfolio of patents covering things as trivial as devices with rounded edges, so it could use those patents as leverage against competition.

In a sworn statement by Colligan, which the plaintiffs cited, he stated "Mr. Jobs also suggested that if Palm did not agree to such an arrangement, Palm could face lawsuits alleging infringement of Apple's many patents." The communication from Jobs read "If you choose the litigation route [against Apple's anti-attrition threat], we can respond with our own claims based on patent assets, but I don't think litigation is the answer."