March 10, 2015 / 10:40 PM / 3 years ago

Apple seeks to dismiss lawsuit filed by electric battery maker

(Reuters) - Apple Inc asked a U.S. court on Tuesday to dismiss a civil lawsuit filed by battery maker A123 systems over engineers hired by Apple, saying A123’s claims were too speculative to proceed, according to a court filing.

Customers gather for the opening of an Apple Store in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, January 24, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer

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.

Last week Apple asked for an extension to respond to the lawsuit because the two companies were exploring a settlement. The latest filing did not provide any update on those talks.

An A123 spokesman declined to comment, and an Apple representative was not immediately available.

A123 sued Apple and five former A123 employees in February, alleging breach of contract and several other claims.

In its motion to dismiss on Tuesday, Apple said A123 did not present enough concrete evidence to move forward in court.

“Apple hiring five A123 employees, without more, does not indicate improper means or motive to support a claim for tortious interference or ‘raiding,’” the company said in its filing.

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.

In its filing on Tuesday, Apple said nothing in A123’s complaint suggests that the engineers are working on a product that would compete with A123.

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 and Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Chris Reese and Richard Chang

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