Apple accuses engineers of stealing chip secrets with AirDrop and Time Machine

Apple is suing a stealth startup called Rivos for poaching engineers with access to secret company information. According to the complaint, Apple believes that former employees stole proprietary information at the request of Rivos as part of the recruitment process.

Although not much is known about Rivos at the moment, the startup is primarily aimed at silicon engineers in job postings. Apple says the startup wants to design chips that will compete with their own, but the company believes Rivos is doing it with proprietary Apple information.

“Starting in June 2021, Rivos began a coordinated campaign to target Apple employees with access to Apple’s proprietary and trade secret information about Apple’s SoC design,” Apple said in the complaint.

Prior to the trial, Apple sent Rivos a letter explaining the confidentiality agreements that its former employees were bound by, but the startup had no response.

Apple also accuses outgoing employees, poached by Rivos, of stealing “gigabytes of sensitive SoC specifications and design files” in the lawsuit. The documentation explains:

Some used multiple USB storage drives to transfer material to personal devices, accessed Apple’s most proprietary specifications stored in collaborative applications, and used AirDrop to transfer files to personal devices. Others stored voluminous presentations of existing and unreleased Apple SoCs – branded Apple Proprietary and Confidential – on their personal cloud storage drives. One even made a full Time Machine backup of his entire Apple device on a personal external drive.

In the lawsuit against Rivos, Apple mentions two former engineers who have previously worked on their chip team, who joined Rivos last fall. Apple’s lawsuit aims “to reclaim its trade secrets, to protect them from further disclosure and to reveal the full extent of their need to try to mitigate the damage that has and will occur.”

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