Apple has filed a lawsuit against a startup in Mountain View called Rivos, which it claims has deceived employees who took secrets about the design of chips on its way out of the iPhone giant in Cupertino.
“Rivos continues to target Apple’s engineers, with more deviations this month,” the lawsuit said on Friday.
The startup, which is currently described on its website as “invisible mode”, has hired more than 40 former Apple employees in the last year, the case claims.
“Beginning in June 2021, Rivos has launched a coordinated campaign to target Apple employees with access to Apple’s ownership and trade secret information about Apple’s (chip) designs,” according to a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in San Jose.
Rivos instructed some of the workers to download and install encrypted communications applications before conducting further talks with them, the case said.
Rivos did not respond immediately to emails and voicemails seeking comment.
Most of the workers who left Apple for the launch were design engineers working on computer and telephone chips, according to the lawsuit.
Apple claims that a forensic analysis of the devices that employees returned to it before they left shows that they took the information.
At stake are Apple’s M1 computer chip – designed internally and launched in late 2020, marking the company’s move away from Intel’s processor chips – and the A15 chip used in the latest iPhones. Apple has dedicated billions of dollars to developing the chips, the lawsuit said.
Rivos was founded a year ago to make chips to compete with Apple, the case said. The information, taken from Apple employees hired by Rivos, includes “some of Apple’s most sensitive and valuable information” that “will provide Rivos with a significant, unfair advantage in developing advanced … chips”, the lawsuit alleges. .
The case also cites the names of two former Apple employees who are alleged to have taken classified information with them to Rivos. Bhasi Kaitamana has worked for Apple in Austin, Texas, for nearly eight years as a chip design engineer, according to the lawsuit. Apple claims that Kaitamana accepted a job offer from Rivos between July 20 and August 9 last year, after which it asked Apple for a day off on August 10.
“During his weekend, Mr. Kaitamana created a new folder on his Apple-issued computer and began copying Apple documents containing property and trade secret information,” the lawsuit said. Although Kaitamana resigned from Apple on August 13, “he is working to continue to accumulate a collection of Apple’s own and trade secrets (chips) until the day before he leaves Apple on August 16,” the lawsuit said. Kaitaman’s folder, called “APPLE_WORK_DOCS”, contains thousands of Apple documents, and it copies files to an external storage device, Apple said.
Kaitamana did not immediately respond to emails and voicemails sent to him at Rivos seeking comment.
Another former Apple employee, Ricky Wen of San Jose, has worked at Apple for nearly 14 years as a chip design engineer, according to the case. Rivos approached Wen to move to Apple in June or July last year, and he accepted a job offer for a position similar to the one he had at Apple on July 23, the lawsuit alleges.
Within a week, Wen, also known as Wen Shih-Chieh, transferred about 390 gigabytes of data – including trade secrets about past, present and unreleased chips – from his Apple-issued computer to a personal hard drive, and Apple found that he gained access to more chip design secrets the day before he left Apple and just before connecting a hard drive to his computer, the company said. He also transferred hundreds of files to his personal device at Google, including chip design charts, and also kept trade secrets on his iCloud Drive after leaving Apple, the lawsuit claims.
Wen did not immediately respond to emails and voice messages sent to Rivos seeking comment.
Apple also claims that “numerous” other former employees who took jobs at Rivos, similar to those they had at Apple, downloaded and retained Apple’s proprietary documents after accepting job offers from the startup. Several have connected external storage devices to computers issued by Apple in the days between their hiring by Rivos and their departure from Apple, the case said.
“Several employees deleted information or deleted their Apple devices altogether in an attempt to cover their tracks,” the lawsuit said.
Rivos is currently advertising more than 75 new employees, most of them in technology areas such as chip and software engineering, mostly in Mountain View, but also in Austin, Bangalore and Cambridge, England.
Apple claims unspecified damages and wants a court order to return the allegedly misappropriated data and Rivos to stop any access or use of the data.
In March, federal prosecutors has filed charges against a former Apple employee with the company’s fraud of over $ 10 million by making discounts, stealing equipment and diverting money.