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Tesla sues Rivian for “troubling pattern” of alleged trade secret theft

Tesla says it has discovered a “disturbing pattern” of former employees who took confidential information and trade secrets on the road to new jobs at EV startup Rivian, following a new trial first reported by Bloomberg. Tesla even claims that Rivian “knowingly encourages this behavior” and that it seeks unspecified criminal damages for what it alleges “despicable, willful, oppressive, willful, malicious, [and] ambiguous behavior. Rivian calls the allegations “groundless”.

Rivian is arguably the richest EV startup in the world, raising over $ 5 billion in the past year and a half. It is planned to deliver a premium electric pick-up in early 2021 before Tesla’s Cyber ​​Truck would hit the road. At the same time, the company will also sell an electric SUV. Prior to this launch, Rivian has hired some 2,400 employees at leading companies in the automotive and technology industries, including 178 former Tesla employees, according to the lawsuit, 70 of which jumped immediately.

The lawsuit, which was filed late last week, lists four former Tesla employees and Rivian as defendants, although Tesla says it has identified additional people who may have also stolen and brought confidential company information to the EV startup.

“We admire Tesla for her leadership in resetting expectations of what an electric car can be,” a Rivian spokesperson said in a statement. “Upon joining Rivian, we require all employees to confirm that they have not and will not enter the intellectual property of former employers into Rivian systems. The claims of this suit are groundless and go against Rivian’s culture, ethos and company policies. ”

Tesla says that two of the said defendants have admitted to including confidential information. One is Tami Pascale, who was a senior manager in Tesla’s staff department. Tesla says that one day after signing Rivian’s offer letter, Pascale “took at least ten confidential and proprietary documents from the Tesla network,” including lists of candidates, information about where the automaker finds potential recruitments, and a “detailed internal writing of a candidate at executive level. ‘

Tesla says that Pascale initially denied this when confronted by the company’s investigative team in early July, but eventually “confessed to taking the confidential and proprietary documents.” However, Pascale would not have agreed to delete the files, and the company claims she still has her work laptop. Tesla says that she shared her phone’s screen with one of the company’s investigators, and when asked to search for the name of the company, “numerous files” were visible, but Pascale “interrupted the session finished “.

Jessica Siron, who was manager in Tesla’s environmental, health, and safety department, is said to have sent documents to her personal Gmail account three days after signing an offer letter from Rivian. Tesla claims that Siron initially denied doing this when confronted by the investigation team, but admitted that she sent one document when pressed.

Tesla’s complaint is light on details of Rivian’s knowledge or encouragement of wrongdoing, except for the case of Kim Wong, who was a staff rider at Tesla until a few weeks ago. Tesla claims that Wong was approached by a Rivian recruiting manager who told her that “Rivian did not have the recruiting templates, structures, formulas or documents that would be required” to grow the startup’s recruiting efforts, the complaint said. On the same day as that conversation, Tesla says Wong “sent at least sixteen highly confidential Tesla network recruitment documents to her Gmail account,” including Powerpoint confidential presentations detailing the automaker’s recruitment and hiring process, as well as salary information. .

Rivian’s co-advisor general took an “arrogant” attitude to the allegations, according to Tesla, “claiming that including confidential information in the industry was common.” Rivian tells The edge it disagrees with this framing. “In good faith, we discussed with Tesla the seriousness with which we take each allegation. This document misrepresents a conversation between counsel, “said the spokesman.

Tesla says in the lawsuit that she was able to find out all of this because the investigative team “recently purchased advanced electronic security surveillance tools.” Tesla’s research team has been accused of hacking and spying on employees more than once over the years.

Tesla’s lawsuit is the latest in what has become a constant stream of trade secrets between Silicon Valley transportation companies. Most notable was Waymo’s lawsuit against Uber, in which it accused Anthony Levandowski of stealing massive amounts of data on self-driving cars and conspiring with then-CEO Travis Kalanick to give that data to Uber. (The lawsuit was eventually settled.)

Nor is this Tesla’s first trade secret. It recently filed a lawsuit against self-driving startup Zoox, leading to Zoox admitting that several Tesla-hired employees have arrived with stolen documents. In 2019, Tesla sued a former employee for transferring alleged trade secrets to Chinese EV startup XPeng. That lawsuit is entering the discovery phase, but the former employee admitted in court last year that he had uploaded the autopilot source code to his personal iCloud account.

A former Apple employee was arrested in 2018 for allegedly stealing trade secrets while also trying to get a job at XPeng.