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TechCrunch has learned from sources that during Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s tenure on Apple’s board the two firms had an unwritten agreement not to poach talent from each other.

To be clear, this unwritten agreement was that Google would not go after Apple employees, and vice versa. However, employees of both companies were free to apply to the other company on their own, we’re told. That’s a small, but important difference as the practice of going after other company’s talent, also known as “poaching”, is considered to be an important component of healthy competition in the market.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there was such an agreement. It need not have been verbalized (since both parties may not have wanted to fracture the relationship by having their recruiters target top talent), although it likely was. With the spat over Google Voice presumably leading to Schmidt’s exit from the board (as well as the general fact that they truly are starting to overlap in a number of areas) I would imagine the reigns might be loosened a bit when it comes to locating and recruiting major talent from both firms. Additionally, ending the talent détente would go some way towards dealing with the current Justice Department investigation into hiring practices in the tech sector.

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