A California judge has rejected a Apple and Google's bid last night to have an antitrust lawsuit dismissed. The judge denined a motion to dismiss a class action lawsuit from five software engineers who claimed that a group of high profile tech companies, including Google and Apple, conspired in a "no poaching" deal.
In a decision on Wednesday night, Koh said the existence of "Do Not Cold Call" agreements among various defendants "supports the plausible inference that the agreements were negotiated, reached, and policed at the highest levels" of the companies.
"The fact that all six identical bilateral agreements were reached in secrecy among seven defendants in a span of two years suggests that these agreements resulted from collusion, and not from coincidence," Judge Lucy Koh was quoted as saying by Reuters.
All of the defendants are based in California: Adobe in San Jose; Apple in Cupertino; Google and Intuit in Mountain View; Intel in Santa Clara; Lucasfilm in San Francisco; and Pixar in Emeryville. Walt Disney is based in Burbank.
Without admitting wrongdoing, the companies agreed not to take steps to restrict competition for workers, including setting limits on cold-calling and recruiting.
Among the revelations stemming from the litigation was a 2007 email trail involving the late Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt, then respectively Apple's and Google's chief executives, over Google's apparent effort to recruit an Apple engineer.
"I would be very pleased if your recruiting department would stop doing this," Jobs wrote Schmidt, an Apple director at the time.
Schmidt forwarded that email to various people, asking if they could "get this stopped."
Eventually, Google's staffing director said the employee who recruited the engineer would be fired, and added: "Please extend my apologies as appropriate to Steve Jobs."
Joseph Saveri, a lawyer for the five plaintiff engineers, said their case remains on track for a June 2013 trial.
"This is a significant step forward," Saveri said in an email.
The court will convene on June 28th to hear class certification that will determine which employees are eligible to be represented by the class action lawsuit. The case is set for trial in July 2012. If compensation was suppressed between 5% and 10%, as the plaintiffs lawyer Joseph Saveri estimated, each entry-level software engineer eligible for the class action suit could be entitled to $5,000 to $10,000 for each year they were employed between 2006 and 2009, and more senior employee could be entitled to much, much more.
Here is the full court ruling: