Apple Computer Inc. filed suit yesterday against co-founder and former chairman Steven P. Jobs, charging that he had breached his contract by planning a new computer firm and hiring employes away from Apple before he tendered his resignation.

The lawsuit alleges that Jobs' efforts to begin a new company could lead to the "misappropriation of confidential and proprietary information," according to Apple's statement.

Jobs announced last week that he had resigned as chairman, complaining that Apple's management and directors were taking a "hostile posture" toward his plans to launch a new company to produce powerful personal computers for the college market.

The lawsuit seeks to keep Jobs and another former Apple employe from using any of Apple's confidential or proprietary information for the new company. It would also bar them from hiring employes or former employes of Apple in an attempt to get such information, the statement said. The lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $5 million.

Jobs, reached last night, said "We have no intention of taking or using any Apple confidential information or proprietary technology in our new company." He said he was "very surprised" that Apple had decided to sue, saying he had repeated his assurances many times to Apple's lawyers last week. It "doesn't help Apple or its employes.

"We don't want to get involved in an unjustified lawsuit. We just want to build our company and invent something new," Jobs said.

Jobs' told Apple directors Sept. 12 that he planned to resign and form a new company and, initially, Apple appeared willing to invest in the venture, Jobs and Apple executives both agree. The conflict was triggered by Jobs' disclosure the next day that he had already recruited five Apple managers -- a move that Apple executives and directors regarded as a violation of his responsibilities as chairman.

One of the five, Richard A. Page, is a co-defendant in the suit filed yesterday. The lawsuit says Page was responsible for designing and developing a new personal computer at Apple that the company calls a "next generation product."

"Apple contends that Jobs plans to use Apple's efforts undertaken on the next generation product for the benefit of his competing company, that he lured away key employes to join his company and that he sold some of his Apple stock to finance his company without disclosing his intention to develop a competing business," the Apple news release said.