Ex-Tesla engineer Alexander Yatskov, who is accused of stealing trade secrets, is upset that his case is going to arbitration. Yatskov has noted that it was “humiliating” to be sued by his former employer in open court, only to be pushed into a closed-door arbitration later. This, according to the ex-Tesla engineer, does not provide him an opportunity to defend himself publicly.
Back in May, Tesla filed a suit against Yatskov, alleging that the engineer had stolen confidential information related to the company’s Project Dojo supercomputer, which will be used to train the company’s self-driving neural networks. Tesla alleged that the ex-engineer had downloaded confidential and tightly guarded information about Dojo on his personal devices.
The electric vehicle maker noted that when confronted, Yatskov allegedly surrendered a “dummy” computer in an attempt to cover his tracks. The company added that it had caught the ex-Tesla engineer sending emails with classified information about the company from his personal email address to his work email. For context, Yatskov was with Tesla for a short period, being hired in January and formally resigning in early May.
While addressing Yatskov at a San Francisco hearing, US District Judge James Donato noted that the case could very well end up in arbitration. “I think you’re on your way to arbitration. I’d love to keep it. I’m just not really seeing a way,” Judge Donato said.
Yatskov’s lawyers, for their part, have argued that Tesla’s strategy of toggling back and forth between court and arbitration is procedurally improper, according to a Bloomberg News report. The ex-Tesla engineer’s legal team added that Tesla “cannot have it both ways.” “Now that Tesla has dragged Dr. Yatskov’s name through the mud, Tesla wants to hide this dispute in private arbitration,” Yatskov’s lawyers wrote in a filing.
Despite the arguments of the defendant’s lawyers, Judge Donato has stated that Tesla seems to be appropriately exercising the mandatory arbitration provision of Yatskov’s contract with the automaker. He also urged Tesla and the ex-engineer to seek a settlement. Tesla’s attorney, Sean Paul Gates, however, told the judge that the EV maker is looking to recover the costs of its investigation into the former employee, which could be a roadblock to a potential settlement.
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