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Big Blue iPod boss cleared for Cupertino landing

Papermaster returns

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Apple announced today that Mark Papermaster will (finally) begin his new career at Apple on April 24th, assuming the lofty title of Senior Vice President of Devices Hardware Engineering.

The former IBM exec agreed to become a technology adviser to Steve Jobs back in October, and that proposed position was immediately challenged by his former company, which claimed that Papermaster was "privy to a whole host of trade secrets and confidences" that he could subsequently transfer to Apple.

IBM's lawsuit, filed on October 22 in New York, sought to prevent Papermaster from joining Apple due to his "Noncompetition Agreement with, and confidentiality obligations to, IBM."

At that time, IBM spokesperson Fred McNeese told The Reg that "Mr. Papermaster's employment by Apple is a violation of his agreement with IBM against working for a competitor should he leave IBM," and that "We will vigorously pursue this case in court."

IBM's quick and assertive action to stop Papermaster from joining Apple raised many an eyebrow among the technorati because it specifically stated that the company was concerned that "Apple intends to expand its presence in the server business."

Apple? The server business?

Yes, the Cupertino consumer-electronics manufacturer does, indeed, manufacture the Xserve line of 1U servers, but Apple is also notorious for neglecting that segment of its market. What's more, recent years have seen Apple focusing more and more on consumer-oriented product lines such as its iMacs, iPods, and iPhones.

Nevertheless, since Papermaster was an IBM server master, Big Blue was worried - even though he was ostensibly going to Cupertino to become the head of Apple’s iPod and iPhone division.

In court, IBM managed to convince Federal District Judge Kenneth Karas to halt Papermaster's move to California.

After that ruling, and Apple spokesman was quoted by Reuters as saying, "We will comply with the court's order but are confident that Mark Papermaster will be able to ultimately join Apple when the dust settles."

He turned out to be right.

Papermaster countersued IBM, pointing out, among other things, the quite reasonable observation that he "has no substantial relationship to New York, in that he has resided and worked in Texas for the past 17 years, and he is going to work for Apple, which is a California corporation," and that "Both states hold that such noncompetition agreements are unenforceable as a matter of public policy."

In other words, since the suit was filed in New York, which doesn't have jurisdiction over either Papermaster or Apple, the matter was moot.

One can only imagine the behind-the-scenes wrangling that has taken place since Papermaster's counter-suit. But it all ended today when, as Apple announced, "The litigation between IBM and Mark Papermaster has been resolved," and that he "will lead Apple’s iPod and iPhone hardware engineering teams."

And Apple's server business will continue to languish. ®

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