Motorola sues ex-mobile exec over Apple iPhone job

Financially ailing Motorola has slapped Michael Fenger, a former executive of mobile phones, with a lawsuit for allegedly violating a non-compete pact and landing in a position to reveal trade secrets at Apple, a company that has taken Motorola's crown with the second-generation iPhone.

The lawsuit alleges that Fenger -- who is now Apple's VP of global iPhone sales -- received "millions of dollars in cash, restricted stock units, and stock options" in return for inking an agreement not to work for a competitor for two years after leaving Motorola.

Fenger took the job at Apple on March 31 of this year, less than a month after leaving his position at Motorola, where he was senior VP of mobile devices for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), according to Motorola's complaint.

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Filed in Illinois on Thursday, the suit doesn't claim that Fenger stole any documents, but it does purport that Fenger "cannot perform his duties for Apple without inevitably disclosing Motorola's trade secrets."

Motorola's phone sales have taken a nosedive over the past two years due to its ongoing failure to produce a successful follow-on to the Razr.

After the ousting of Ed Zander as CEO last year and the subsequent departure of Padmasree Warrior, who moved on to Cisco, many other staff departures followed in a massive restructuring fueled by the desire of majority shareholder Carl Icahn to spin off Motorola's mobile phones as a separate division. Now that Icahn is also snapping up Yahoo stock, the activist shareholder is becoming an increasingly influential figure at Yahoo, too.

Motorola's brain drain have included the resignations in March of Stu Reed, who had briefly headed up Motorola's Mobile Devices Unit, and Kenneth Keller, who'd been in charge of Motorola's marketing.

Motorola's lawsuit also charges that Fenger helped to lure two other Motorola employees to Apple. Motorola is asking the court to stop Fenger from working for Apple for two years and to prohibit him from soliciting or hiring Motorola employees, or disclosing confidential information about Motorola.

Meanwhile, this week, Rita Lane, former chief of Motorola's supply chain division, also reportedly joined Apple.

The suit against Fenger isn't the first action Motorola has taken against an ex-employee. In another legal case, Motorola sued Rob Garriques, another former head of its mobile unit, who is now at Dell. Motorola has also prevailed in enforcing a non-complete agreement signed by its former COO, Mike Zafirovski, who left the struggling Motorola to become Nortel Networks' CEO.

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