Apple hires BlackBerry's top software VP, BlackBerry wins court battle over departure

Sebastien Marineau-Mes, BlackBerry's SVP of Software, is leaving the ailing smartphone manufacturer for brighter and warmer pastures: Apple. Or at least that's what he's trying to do, if it weren't for those pesky contracts. As revealed in a recent ruling from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice document, Marineau-Mes began discussing leaving BlackBerry for Apple back in September 2013, and was formally offered the position of Vice President of Core OS in December.

He accepted the position and offered his written resignation to BlackBerry on December 23rd, advising them that he'd likely be heading out to Apple in two months time. That's where the legal dispute of BlackBerry Limited v. Marineau-Mes started, as per a contract signed by Marineau-Mes that gave him a promotion to BlackBerry EVP of Platform Development he was required to provide six months notice of his resignation.

To add insult to injury, that contract was signed on September 27, 2013 — both while BlackBerry was under a promotional freeze (except for when you really want to keep somebody) and while Marineau-Mes was in discussions about moving to Apple. So BlackBerry took Marineau-Mes to court, and the court agreed that he should fulfill his six-month notice obligation at the company.

We reached out to BlackBerry for statement:

"BlackBerry will not stand by while a former employee violates his employment contract. It is unfortunate that we had to take this step, but we will do whatever is necessary to ensure that employees honor the agreements they make with us. When we enter into an agreement with an employee, as we have with Mr. Marineau, we expect him to honor his commitment just as he would expect that we will honor ours. We are pleased that the court has endorsed our position and ruled that the employee contract and its terms are valid."

Marineau-Mes came to BlackBerry in 2010 when then-Research In Motion purchased QNX and used that software to build the basis of the BlackBerry PlayBook and BlackBerry 10. BlackBerry insiders have long considered him to be one of the great talents on the team, and he's worked closely with QNX founder Dan Dodge for years.

It's hard to say what effect exactly this ruling will have on Marineau-Mes' status at BlackBerry and Apple. At the very least we can expect that it will push back his end date in Waterloo to June 23rd — or the 4-month delay could make Apple look elsewhere. For what it's worth, Apple's been down this road before. In 2008 Apple tried hiring Mark Papermaster away from IBM, but the transition was hung up on a no-compete clause that took several months to resolve. Apple's a patient company when they want to be, so if they really want Marineau-Mes, they'll wait. Until June.

Derek Kessler

Derek Kessler is Special Projects Manager for Mobile Nations. He's been writing about tech since 2009, has far more phones than is considered humane, still carries a torch for Palm, and got a Tesla because it was the biggest gadget he could find. You can follow him on Twitter at @derekakessler.