Twenty years ago today Apple actually sued co-founder and former chairman Steve Jobs – just days after he resigned from the company.
Apple sued Jobs and fellow ex-Apple employee Rich Page on September 23, 1985. Both were ordered not to use any proprietary information for their post-Apple venture, and Jobs was charged with dereliction of duties as chairman of Apple.
Jobs was forced out of Apple in 1985 in a vicious power-play that left his erstwhile friend John Sculley in charge (both pictured here in happier times). In the words of BusinessWeek, Jobs was "hurt, humiliated, and disillusioned".
In April 1985 Sculley had got the board to agree to remove Jobs of his roles as executive vice president and general manager of the Macintosh division. The board agreed to allow him to remain as chairman. Sculley didn't act right away, as he was still fond of Jobs – who had infuriated many of his Apple colleagues by "meddling in areas of the company over which he had no jurisdiction" according to 'Apple Confidential' author Owen Linzmeyer.
On the eve of a trip to China, Sculley was informed by Apple's VP of product development Jean-Louis Gasee that Jobs was plotting to overthrow him in his absence. Sculley cancelled the trip, and convened an emergency meeting of the executive staff on May 24.
When he confronted Jobs at the meeting, Sculley was blasted by the man being forced out of his own company. Jobs lashed out at his tormentor "I think you're bad for Apple, and I think you're the wrong person to run this company".
All sided with Sculley, and Jobs left the room "close to tears" according to some.
Two days later Jobs suggested that Sculley become chairman, and that he be appointed president and CEO. Sculley responded by stripping Jobs of all operational duties on May 31. Jobs was put in charge of "global thinking" in a remote office dubbed "Siberia".
On September 12 he told the board of directors that he and a few "low-level" employees planned to start a new computer company that would address the needs of higher education. He asked Apple to license Macintosh software to the company, promising that his new company would not compete with Apple. He offered to resign as chairman.
The board rejected Jobs' resignation, asking him to defer for a week so it could consider taking a 10 per cent stake in the company.
The next day Jobs presented his list of Apple employees: Susan Barnes (senior controller for US Sales & Marketing); George Crow (engineering manager); Dan'l Lewin (higher-education marketing manager); Rich page (Apple Fellow), and Bud Tribble (manager of software engineering).
Apple's board reacted in fury, seeing these employees as nothing like "low level" and privy to vital company secrets. But before they could sack Jobs, he quit on September 17.
Apple filed its legal challenges on September 23.
Later, realizing that the suit only gave Jobs further credibility, Apple quietly settled out of court in January 1986.
Jobs' new company was NeXT, which while a business failure for most of its existence did create a modern operating system called NeXTStep. Apple eventually bought NeXT (for $427m) in 1996 to get its hands on this system as a replacement for the ageing Mac OS.
Jobs returned to Apple as an adviser to CEO Gil Amelio, but it wasn't long before he was back at the helm of the company he co-founded in 1976. His vision and business acumen – clearly improved since Apple felt it could do better without him – brought the company back from the brink of disaster, launching innovative products such as the iMac and iPod. NextStep was transformed into Mac OS X in 2000.