Apple is being sued by electric-car battery maker A123 Systems for allegedly poaching its engineers to build the iPhone maker's own battery division.
Legal website law360.com earlier reported that Apple poached workers from A123 Systems to develop a "large scale battery division" that would compete with A123, despite employment agreements.
Apple and five former employees are named defendants in the lawsuit filed earlier in Massachusetts federal court.
Around June 2014, Apple began aggressively poaching A123 engineers that are leading some of the company's most critical projects, according to the lawsuit. The engineers quit A123 to pursue similar programs at Apple, in violation of their employment agreements.
A123 Systems, which is specialised in manufacturing lithium-ion battery for big machines including cars, claimed the engineers who left the company were of high calibre, and it had to abandon the projects they were working on.
Apple has been poaching engineers with deep expertise in car systems, including from Tesla Inc, and talking with industry experts and automakers with the ultimate aim of learning how to make its own electric car, Reuters reported earlier, citing an auto industry source.
In the lawsuit, A123 said it believes Apple also hired battery engineers from companies including LG Chem Ltd, Samsung SDI Co Ltd, Panasonic Corp, Toshiba Corp and Johnson Controls.
The accusation comes in line with rumours that Apple is working to build a new electric car to rival Tesla.
The car project is known internally at Apple as Titan, and is based a few miles away from the company's global headquarters in Cupertino, California. A lab acting as home for Titan was set up last year, shortly after the new iPhone 6 and Apple Watch were announced, the Financial Times reports.