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 former employees stole proprietary information at the request of Rivos as part of the recruiting process.

While much isn’t known about Rivos for now, the startup primarily targets silicon engineers in job listings. Apple says the startup wants to design chips that will compete with their own, but the company believes Rivos is doing that with proprietary Apple information.

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

Prior to the lawsuit, Apple sent Rivos a letter to explain the confidentiality agreements to which its former employees were bound, but the startup had no response.

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

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

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

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