Intel: jobs for life – or else

Stop looking at those job ads and get on with your work

Chipzilla's litigious nature will again be on public display this week as its suit against Broadcom reaches the Californian courts. Intel is accusing set top box specialist Broadcom of poaching key staff and using secret knowledge in the development of new STB silicon. The case was filed on March 8 in Santa Clara County Superior Court and was seen as an attempt by chip behemoth Intel to keep three former employees from taking similar jobs at relative minnow Broadcom – in which Intel was once an investor. But in an amended complaint filed on April 28, Intel is now accusing Broadcom of actively misappropriating trade secrets and placing Intel's former employees in positions where there will be an "inevitable disclosure'' of Intel's intellectual property. This increased legal activity would seem to indicate that Chipzilla now regards the smaller company as a genuine competitor. California has very relaxed labour laws that have traditionally given employees freedom to move from job to job even if their job contracts threaten them with boils and plagues of frogs should they go to the competition. But if Intel proves that employees should be prevented from moving to competing firms, that freedom could soon be at an end. "In a sense Intel is trying to make an example of these employees," said Broadcom president and CEO Henry Nicholas. "This whole suit, I believe, is the result of some middle managers at Intel who were disgruntled over the fact that they lost some of their brightest stars." Intel further maintains that an engineer who has subsequently left the company, but has not joined Broadcom, gave Broadcom a highly detailed and confidential diagram of a networking chip design that Intel plans to introduce - a diagram that Broadcom never informed Intel it had seen. Broadcom is also alleged to have received email from an Intel employee outlining Intel's confidential processor road map and that Broadcom again failed to inform Intel that it had received confidential information.

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