Apple, Google and Intel are among seven technology companies to face an antitrust lawsuit over allegations that they conspired not to poach one another's staff.
A San Jose judge has ruled that the allegations warrant investigation, thanks to the existence of a 'do not cold call' agreement between the companies.
The defendants - which also include Adobe, Intuit, Pixar and Lucasfilm - attemtped to argue that there simply wasn't enough evidence of an overall conspiracy.
But US District Judge Lucy Koh disagreed.
"The fact that all six identical bilateral agreements were reached in secrecy among seven Defendants in a span of two years suggests that these agreements resulted from collusion, and not from coincidence," she wrote.
"It strains credulity that Apple and Adobe reacked an agreement in May 2005 that was identical to the 'Do Not Cold Call' agreement Pixar entered into with Lucasfilm in January 2005, without some communication or coordination".
The lawsuit was launched about a year ago by five software engineers who believed they'd lost out as a result of the agreement.
Back in 2010, similar allegations led to an investigation by the Department of Justice, whcih ended with a promise by the comapnies to stop entering into such agreements in the future.