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Former IBM chip expert cleared to begin work at Apple

Apple announced Tuesday that Mark Papermaster, the former IBM chip expert who was sued by Big Blue for allegedly violating a non-compete agreement by accepting a position at Apple, is now free to begin work as a VP for the iPhone maker this spring.

"The litigation between IBM and Mark Papermaster has been resolved," Apple said in a brief statement to the press.

Papermaster will be coming to Apple as senior vice president of Devices Hardware Engineering, reporting directly to Apple chief executive Steve Jobs, on April 24. He'll be tasked with leading the Cupertino-based company's iPod and iPhone hardware engineering teams following the departure of iPod creator Anthony Fadell, who last fall elected to vacate his post as iPod chief for personal reasons.

Apple recruited the new executive from IBM last October, resulting in an immediate lawsuit from Big Blue based on his contract's non-compete clause. At the time, IBM insisted the 26-year veteran would hurt IBM's business by working for Apple. Papermaster was part of an elite group comprising the 300 senior managers within the company.

In early November, the would-be hire responded in court, asserting there is no conflict between Papermaster's new job and his old work for IBM.

"I do not recall a single instance of Apple being described as a competitor of IBM during my entire tenure at IBM," Papermaster said. He added that IBM's focus on server-side hardware and software, pure data storage, and supporting services do not apply to his work with Apple's handheld devices like the iPhone and iPod touch. Those two businesses, Papermaster claimed, do not conflict with each other.

Trying to further support the idea that Papermaster wasn't hired to work on semiconductors, Apple touted his skills as a manager and executive first, his technical knowledge second.

Jobs and Fadell were both known to have interviewed Papermaster personally, and Apple human resources VP Danielle Lambert said "nobody questioned" his ability to lead a development team.

U.S. Federal District Judge Kenneth Karas ordered Papermaster to "immediately cease" work with Apple later that week, pending a decision from the court. Apple quietly took Papermaster's bio down from its site as the dispute continued.

AppleInsider later uncovered documents revealing that Papermaster wasn't Apple's first choice for the position, and IBM officials were unclear in their conversations with him over whether the non-compete clause could prevent him from going back to work.

Papermaster filed a countersuit against his former employer, arguing that Apple and IBM are not significant or major competitors. Further, he argued certain clauses in his contract were unreasonably broad, so much so that they could restrict him from going to work for a competitor even if he'd be working on something completely unrelated to the work he performed at IBM.

Terms of the settlement leading to today's announcement have not been released.

Papermaster has 25 years of product and technology experience, and was previously a vice president at IBM. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas, and a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Vermont in 1988.

The IBM veteran is also active with the University of Texas where he is a member of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Advisory Council.