In brief: We’re used to hearing about lawsuits being launched against Apple, but Cupertino isn’t averse to sending its own lawyers after entities it feels have wronged the company. One of these is Rivos, a “stealth-mode” startup based out of Mountain View, California, that Apple accuses of poaching Cupertino engineers to steal trade secrets for use in rival chip designs.
Last year brought reports of some senior Apple engineers leaving the company to join a mysterious startup called Rivos, which was reportedly working on a high-performance RISC-V CPU design.
But according to a lawsuit filed by Apple, at least two of the engineers that joined Rivos took gigabytes of confidential information with them, part of a “coordinated campaign” launched in June 2021 that has targeted Apple employees.
The suit also alleges that other ex-Apple employees took confidential documents with them when they left to join Rivos, and that they tried to hide these actions by wiping their Apple-issued devices. The information is said to have included presentations covering current and unreleased chip designs, writes Bloomberg.
“Apple has reason to believe that Rivos instructed at least some Apple employees to download and install apps for encrypted communications (e.g., the Signal app) before communicating with them further,” Apple wrote in the complaint.
Some of the proprietary and trade secrets allegedly stolen by the engineers covered information about Apple’s M1 and A15 chips. Apple said it has spent billions of dollars and more than a decade of research on its SoC designs, which have “revolutionized the personal and mobile computing worlds,” writes Reuters.
Two defendants named in the suit— Bhasi Kaithamana and Ricky Wen—are accused of breaching intellectual property agreements they signed while at Apple that prohibited them from copying confidential proprietary information during their time at the company and to return any related materials before they left.
Apple wants the court to block Rivos from using its trade secrets, order its former employees to return its property, and award it an undisclosed amount of money damages.
Apple is still in the process of suing former high-level chip designer Gerard Williams III for allegedly violating his contract and exploiting Apple technology in his venture, Nuvia.