Apple, Google Win Ruling Blocking Group Antitrust Lawsuit

Apple Inc. (AAPL) and six other companies won a court order to block potentially thousands of employees, from engineers to sous chefs, from proceeding in a group lawsuit that their incomes were held down by the companies’ agreements not to recruit one another’s workers.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California, ruled today that information-sharing by plaintiffs lawyers and the companies may permit the case to go forward and the employees may refile their claims with the newer information.

The case can’t proceed now as a class action, partly because “plaintiffs examples, though compelling, may not be sufficient to show that all or nearly all class members were affected by the anti-solicitation agreements without additional documentary support or empirical analysis,” Koh wrote.

The lawsuit is a private action on behalf of employees that mirrors claims the companies settled with the U.S. Justice Department in 2010.

The companies argued that the employees’ lawyers failed to show that everyone in the proposed class was hurt by any such agreements, as is required for the group to be certified as a class. Plaintiffs’ lawyers claim the anti-competitive behavior artificially suppressed incomes of more than 160,000 employees across a range of job categories.

“Plaintiffs appreciate the court’s thorough consideration of the evidence and are prepared to address the court’s concerns fully in a renewed motion,” Kelly M. Dermody, a lawyer for the employees, said today in an e-mail.

Companies Sued

Other companies sued are Google Inc. (GOOG), Intel Corp. (INTC), Adobe Systems Inc. (ADBE), Walt Disney Co. (DIS)’s Pixar animation unit, Intuit Inc. (INTU) and Lucasfilm Ltd.

The San Jose case is In Re High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation, 11-cv-02509, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose). The previous case is U.S. v. Adobe Systems, 10-cv-01629, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

To contact the reporter on this story: Joel Rosenblatt in San Francisco at jrosenblatt@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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