Tesla claims Rivian stole trade secrets, poached employees in new lawsuit

(Credit: Tesla, Rivian)

Tesla has opened a lawsuit against fellow electric vehicle manufacturer Rivian, stating that an “alarming pattern” of poaching employees and thieving trade secrets has taken place.

Tesla claims that four former employees took highly sensitive information with them after they left to work for Rivian. However, Tesla believes that there could be at least two more individuals who went to the company and took secrets with them to Rivian, Bloomberg reported.

A complaint filed by Tesla in the San Jose, California state court says, “Misappropriating Tesla’s competitively useful confidential information when leaving Tesla for a new employer is obviously wrong and risky.”

“One would engage in that behavior only for an important benefit — to use it to serve the competitive interests of a new employer,” Tesla added to the complaint.

Rivian recently closed a $2.5 billion investment round led by fund manager T. Rowe Price. The company has an extensive list of investors that includes Amazon, Ford Motor Company, and Cox Automotive. The company has denied any involvement in obtaining Tesla’s private information and stated that it requires newly onboarded employees to confirm that they will not utilize past employer information into Rivian’s infrastructure.

Employees are required to confirm “that they have not, and will not, introduce former employers’ intellectual property into Rivian systems.”

The company, headed by CEO R.J. Scaringe, is working on releasing its first all-electric vehicle, the R1T pickup. It is set to begin production in early 2021.

“Rivian is made up of high-performing, mission-driven teams, and our business model and technology are based on many years of engineering, design, and strategy development,” the company said via e-mail. “This requires the contribution and know-how of thousands of employees from across the technology and automotive spaces.”

The case is eerily reminiscent of Tesla’s lawsuit against China’s Xpeng Motors, which also entailed that a former employee took secrets to a new employer after leaving Tesla.

In that case, Tesla accused Guangzhi Cao of downloading the company’s Autopilot source code to his personal computer and transferring it via Apple Airdrop before selling it to Xpeng Motors for financial gain.

Cao maintains that he did download some of Autopilot’s source code to his personal computer while working for Tesla, but stated he did delete it before joining Xpeng.

The case is currently still ongoing.

In the past, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has stated that his company has no competitors who are also interested in transitioning mainstream passenger transport to electrification. While true, the company has established itself as a leader in the industry, and with that comes competitors biting at the company’s heels.

Statements made by Rivian show that the company sees Tesla as a leader in the surge toward electrification. Rivian said, “we admire Tesla for its leadership in resetting expectations of what an electric car can be.”

The case will take place in California’s Superior Court in Santa Clara County. It is recognized as Tesla Inc. v. Rivian Automotive Inc., case number 20CV368472.

Tesla claims Rivian stole trade secrets, poached employees in new lawsuit
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