Papermaster Can Begin Work, IBM Can Begin Looking Over His Shoulder


I touched on this development yesterday, but it merits closer attention. The name Papermaster, once associated with the guy in the army who was in charge of all the stationery (I assume), is now famous in the Apple (s aapl) and tech community for calling attention to the sensitive nature of switching jobs in Silicon Valley.

After announcing his leave from IBM (s ibm), where he was a top executive working on IBM’s microprocessor technology, and his decision to accept a position with Apple as iPod chief Tony Faddel’s replacement, IBM decided to initiate legal proceedings to block the move, citing their non-compete agreement, and the potential threat to company IP the move represented.

The two heavyweight tech firms have finally reached a settlement, and Apple announced yesterday that as a result, Mark Papermaster will begin his job as Senior Vice President of Devices Hardware Engineering on April 24. Apple’s press release downplays the legal battle between themselves and IBM, focusing instead on Papermaster’s professional and educational background.

When the trouble was initially revealed, I suggested at the time that one of the possible motives of IBM in pursuing legal action, since it was my opinion that they probably couldn’t win in the long run, was to strong-arm Apple into some sort of settlement that allowed them early access to upcoming Apple innovations. That’s not necessarily what they got, but they could potentially, depending on what the court sees as infringement by Apple on IBM’s IP.

According to the terms of the settlement, Apple has to submit information to the court regarding Papermaster’s work once in  July 2009, and again in October 2009, in order to make sure that nothing Apple is doing steps on IBM’s toes. It’s unclear whether it will be solely at the court’s discretion to decide if an infringement has occurred, but if IBM gets to have a look as well to make sure everything is on the up-and-up, they could potentially be privy to insider information on Apple tech in a way no one else is.

The settlement also prevents Papermaster from starting his new job any earlier than April 24, a date which marks six months since his departure from IBM. The delay doesn’t seem significant, and is probably only thrown in as a concession to the original one year term stipulated in Papermaster’s non-compete agreement.

After all this trouble, Apple, and Apple followers, are expecting big things from Papermaster, so let’s hope he can deliver. I’m hoping that the dispute and the distraction it caused is part of the reason for Apple’s lack of movement on the netbook front, and that we’ll see something in that area soon now that the new SVP has been cleared to get to work.