Hooked Media Group, Inc. v. Apple Inc.Annotate this Case
Hooked developed an app for mobile devices. Hooked’s CEO and investors later wanted to sell the business. Apple showed interest. After two meetings, it was clear that Apple was not interested in buying Hooked for its technology or market share but might want to acquire Hooked so certain engineers would become Apple employees. Hooked declined but, short on cash, suggested to Apple that it “sell” three engineers to Apple and continue operating the less technical advertising aspect of its business, and provided the engineers’ resumes. Apple responded that it might consider paying a “finder’s fee” but instead contacted the engineers directly and hired them. Hooked demanded that its chief technical officer (CTO) return all Hooked confidential technical information. Hooked emailed Apple’s general counsel. Apple responded that it had no desire to use another company’s trade secrets and would facilitate the return of all confidential information.
Hooked sued, alleging fraud, misappropriation of trade secrets, interference with contract and prospective economic advantage, aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty, unfair business practices, and unjust enrichment. The court of appeal affirmed summary judgment for Apple. No legal wrong is committed when a company solicits and hires away its competitor’s employees; absent some independent illegal act, the interests of the employee in his own mobility and betterment are paramount to the competitive business interests of the employers. Hooked cannot show Apple did something that transformed ordinary free-market competition into an actionable legal wrong.