Nortel Networks wins temporary orders blocking raiding of workforce by U.S. firm

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In a series of temporary orders first granted by a Quebec court on October 29, 1999, Nortel Networks won some relief from what it says was an aggressive campaign by Optical Networks Inc. (ONI), a California-based firm, to recruit highly skilled members of its workforce. The orders barred ten former employees of Nortel and one of its contractors who now work for ONI from recruiting any employees at Nortel or its contractors involved in work on the Advance Test Platform (ATP). The ATP is a testing system for the company’s fibre-optic equipment. The orders also called on the employees not to disclose information relating to the ATP.

In its motion for the injunctions, Nortel argued that ONI, which it described as a “start-up company”, was attempting to compete with Nortel in the production of systems for the transmission of Internet communications. Nortel claimed that it had spent $450 million over four years to develop the OPTera Metro product line to handle the exploding volume of Internet traffic. It said that ONI, which was incorporated in October 1997, can hope to compete with its own system only through a “well-orchestrated strategy to access Nortel Networks technology through the hiring of Nortel Networks resources”.

The most recent order, granted on December 2, 1999, runs until March 30, 2000 or until ONI can persuade the Quebec Court of Appeal to reverse the order, whichever occurs first. ONI is arguing that the Quebec Superior Court had no jurisdiction to issue injunctions regarding persons and matters outside Quebec.

For further information, please contact Lynn Harnden at (613) 563-7660, Extension 226.