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BlackBerry successfully prevents Apple from hiring top executive... for now

sebastian marineau-mes

It looks like we may have a Mark Papermaster scenario on our hands. iMore reports that Apple is facing a legal battle from BlackBerry over its attempt to hire Sebastien Marineau-Mes as the company's VP of Core OS. While at BlackBerry, Marineau-Mes was a SVP of Software.

According to reports, Marineau-Mes accepted an offer from Apple in December whereupon he gave BlackBerry two months notice. There was a slight hiccup, however. In October of 2013, Marineau-Mes was promoted to a new role as executive VP of platform Development (EVP) whereupon his new contract explicitly stated that he was to provide BlackBerry with six months notice should he decide to leave the company.

Not content to see a top executive break terms of a contract, only to jump ship to a competitor, BlackBerry initiated a legal action against the move.

iMore was able to obtain a statement from BlackBerry on the matter which reads:

BlackBerry will not stand by while a former employee violates his employment contract. It is unfortunate that we had to take this step, but we will do whatever is necessary to ensure that employees honor the agreements they make with us. When we enter into an agreement with an employee, as we have with Mr. Marineau, we expect him to honor his commitment just as he would expect that we will honor ours. We are pleased that the court has endorsed our position and ruled that the employee contract and its terms are valid.

Marineau-Mes, court filings show, argued that the contract provision at issue is unenforceable, while also contending that he never assumed the role of BlackBerry EVP. The court, however, didn't buy this argument, noting that Marineau-Mes did see a salary increase following the promotion.

Insofar as the failure to announce the promotion is concerned, the record discloses that both BlackBerry and Marineau-Mes agreed that it would be wise to delay the announcement of his promotion given the fact that a promotion freeze was in place. However, Tear, Marineau-Mes' superior, clearly confirmed and congratulated Marineau-Mes on the promotion, which was approved by the Board. Internal emails further confirm that the promotion took place. Marineau-Mes' own evidence at his cross examination confirms that through the fall of 2013 he continued to be an important part of the BlackBerry team, participating in critical discussions concerning the company's future.

All that being said, The Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled that Marineau-Mes will not be able to join Apple until June 23, 2014. It'll be interesting to see if Apple looks elsewhere to fill the position or if it will patiently wait about three more months. Given the prominence of the position, I can't imagine that time is of such an issue that Apple wouldn't decide to wait a few months.

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