March 3, 2015 / 11:37 PM / in 3 years

Apple exploring settlement with electric car battery maker

(Reuters) - Apple Inc (AAPL.O) is discussing a settlement in a lawsuit brought by electric car battery maker A123 Systems, which accused the iPhone maker of poaching top engineers to build a large-scale battery division.

The leaf on the Apple symbol is tinted green at the Apple flagship store on 5th Ave in New York April 22, 2014. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Apple is exploring how to make an electric car and has been hiring engineers with deep expertise in automobile systems. Around June 2014 Apple began aggressively poaching A123 engineers tasked with leading some of the company’s most critical projects, A123’s lawsuit said.

In a court filing on Tuesday, Apple asked a Massachusetts federal judge for an extension of time to respond to the A123 lawsuit because “they are exploring potential resolution.”

Representatives for Apple and A123 could not immediately be reached for comment. A123 filed the breach of contract lawsuit in February against Apple and five former A123 employees.

Trying to build an actual car would mark a dramatic shift for the maker of the iPhone and iPad. Apple often researches projects which are then discarded, but has so far mainly stuck to its core expertise in mobile and electronic devices.

A123 Systems is a pioneering industrial lithium-ion battery maker, which was backed by a $249 million U.S. government grant. It filed for bankruptcy in 2012 and has been selling off assets.

Lithium-ion is a battery technology that can be used in applications from computers to airplanes, but A123 specializes in big batteries that can be used in big machines, including cars. A123 did not say what specifically the engineers worked on.

The case in U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts is A123 Systems LLC vs. Apple Inc et al., 15-10438.

Reporting by Dan Levine in San Francisco; Editing by Chris Reese

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