back to article Chip firm accused of IP theft bites back, claims Apple's contracts are rotten

A chip startup and several of its employees are being sued by Apple for theft of trade secrets and breach of contract and filed a countersuit.  Rivos was sued [PDF] by Apple early last year over claims it lured away a gaggle of Apple employees working on the system-on-chip (SoC) designs like those in its Mac and iPhone devices …

  1. abend0c4 Silver badge
    Pint

    The aforementioned IPAs

    Ah, IPA. And it's not even Friday.

    Give me enough and I'll agree to anything.

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: The aforementioned IPAs

      Sounds like Rivos have a pretty stout defence.

      But then, it's Apple, so anything gose. Whether the employees knowingly took the information could be the de-cider.

      1. BebopWeBop
        Pint

        Re: The aforementioned IPAs

        Clearly people on both sides are bitter, but ales well that ends well.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: The aforementioned IPAs

          but ales well that ends well

          As long as you have a stout defense and operate in a mild manner.

      2. sanmigueelbeer

        Re: The aforementioned IPAs

        Yes, Rivos have some pint up energy.

  2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Knowledge transfer

    Companies forget that employees also learn as they work and their brains don't get wiped once the contract is terminated.

    It has nothing to do with "trade secrets".

    If Apple didn't want their former employees to work on competing designs they should have paid them enough so they wouldn't think of it.

    It is simple as that.

    Seems like Apple believes that once you start working for them you become their slave for life.

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: Knowledge transfer

      Apple is alleging some of these employees downloaded gigabytes of Apple proprietary data days before they left the company. If that can be proven (I'm guessing if Apple says they know they must log this sort of stuff) then these employees are cooked. It wouldn't matter if they had signed any sort of agreement, whether or not that agreement is enforceable, because that is illegal in any jurisdiction for any employee.

      Whether Rivos is liable as well will depend on what extent that information may have been used in Rivos designs, and to what extent Rivos management was aware, but my non-lawyerly take is that if Apple's allegations are true this is a case about straight up fraud, not about believing employees become "slaves for life".

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: Knowledge transfer

        Apple is alleging some of these employees downloaded gigabytes of Apple proprietary data days before they left the company.

        Depends how you frame it. "gigabytes of data" sounds emotional. In reality employees download company data all the time as part of what they do. For instance, if they needed the documentation for whatever they worked on, it's hardly an indication of any wrong doing. Employee typically would only have access to what they need to access anyway.

        Different question is if they had this data on personal devices and have not wiped it after leaving the company? Still, that doesn't prove anything.

        "Gigabytes of data" can be "compressed" in ones brain to a number of concepts from which they can create new "gigabytes of data". Like if you learn the concept of multiplication, you don't need to memorise multiplication tables.

        Then hypothetically - you downloaded multiplication tables from a company server. Left the company and forgot to delete them. If you use multiplication at new job, can former company claim you stole their IP if you recreated the tables from scratch knowing how to multiply numbers?

        1. DS999 Silver badge

          Re: Knowledge transfer

          If Apple is alleging in a court filing they did it, like I said that means they will have some sort of logs as they can't make such an accusation in a legal filing without anything to back it up. They wouldn't log only the number of bytes, they would log which files are downloaded.

          If Apple knew they were merely downloading the employee handbook and next month's cafeteria offerings lawyers wouldn't be making these allegations in the filings - attorneys can be sanctioned for making false claims in court (that is why so many former Trump lawyers have lost their license to practice law)

          1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

            Re: Knowledge transfer

            That still sounds like a lot of hot air and bullying.

      2. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

        Re: Knowledge transfer

        I'm a good employee who will sync up my git repos and push all my unfinished work and documentation into branches before leaving. It can mean moving gigabytes of data sometimes.

        1. DS999 Silver badge

          Re: Knowledge transfer

          If you read the actual PDF linked in the article and search for "gigabytes" you'll find the below statement. A "good employee" is not doing any of these things.

          4. After accepting their offers from Rivos, some of these employees took gigabytes

          of sensitive SoC specifications and design files during their last days of employment with Apple.

          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.

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Knowledge transfer

        "Whether Rivos is liable as well will depend on what extent that information may have been used in Rivos designs,"

        Or, alternatively, Rivos hired people with good knowledge of Apples IP and patents to better be able safely work around them without inadvertently "copying".

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Knowledge transfer

      "Companies forget that employees also learn as they work and their brains don't get wiped once the contract is terminated."

      They can dream :-)

  3. Ace2 Silver badge

    I’ll be interested to see their excuse for taking “gigabytes of design files.”

  4. anothercynic Silver badge

    Rivos not necessarily guilty

    If it is proven that soon-to-be-ex-Apple staff downloaded designs and the like onto their personal devices, then it's a problem with those employees, not with Rivos. On the other hand, even if Rivos 'induced' them to do this, the employees in question should've considered what moral compass those people at Rivos who induced them to do this are showing (and accordingly, what moral compass Rivos has) and declined the offer (and possibly reported it - maybe that's how Apple found out... being told by other employees who stayed put).

    It's a mess. If what you've taken is the output of your own work (albeit for your employer at the time), I can understand that you want to be able to show off or reference what you've built/designed/done, but for the benefit of a new employer as-is? No, that's stupid and irresponsible, and it would be short-sighted and irresponsible from Rivos to ever induce people to do this and then also use what they brought with them.

    That all said, if you signed an intellectual property agreement, and you can show that you are using your knowledge of what you do, *not* specifically the intellectual property you produced, you're on the right side of the agreement, even if the lawyers disagree. IPAs that unnecessarily hobble you after you leave or trade restriction clauses in contracts are rubbish and should be declared illegal the world over. Chip designers are not a dime a dozen, so it's not like you can just walk into another job somewhere else and do something completely different. If you're a specialist, it sucks to be restricted from what you love doing for a long period of time.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like