Apple lawsuit against chipmaking startup Rivos alleges theft of trade secrets

Apple lawsuit against chipmaking startup Rivos alleges theft of trade secrets

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Apple Inc. has filed a lawsuit against chipmaking startup Rivos Inc., alleging that it hired more than 40 former Apple employees and instructed them to copy information about Apple’s system-on-chip designs.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court Northern District of California San Jose on Friday, names Rivos and two former Apple employees, Wen Shih-Chief (Ricky Wen) and Bhasi Kaithamana. Wen’s LinkedIn profile describes him as having worked as a computer architect at Apple since July 2007, while Kaithamana’s profile states he was previously an engineering manager in CPU design at Apple before joining Rivos as CPU implementation lead in August.

Apple’s lawsuit claims breach of contract and a violation of the Defend Trade Secrets Act. Apple claims that starting in June 2021, Rivos began a coordinated campaign to target Apple employees with access to proprietary and trade secret information about its SoC designs. Apple did contact Rivos, informing it of the confidentiality obligations of Apple’s former employees, but Rivos did not respond.

Where the lawsuit gets juicy is that Apple alleges that some of its employees who joined Rivos took gigabytes of sensitive SoC specifications and design files during their last days of employment with the iPhone and Mac maker. It’s alleged some used USB storage drives to offload material to personal devices, accessed Apple’s proprietary specification and used AirDrop to transfer files to personal devices. One former employee is also alleged to have made a full Time Machine backup of his entire Apple device onto a personal external drive.

“Apple has reason to believe that Rivos instructed at least some of these individuals to download and install apps for encrypted communications before conducting further conversations,” the lawsuit states. “And several of the employees deleted information or wiped their Apple devices entirely to try to cover their tracks, later falsely representing to Apple that they had not done so. ”

The lawsuit adds that though Apple welcomes and values open competition, that competition cannot be built on trade secret theft, leaving Apple with no choice but to file the lawsuit.

Not much is known about Rivos other than that it’s based in Mountain View, California, appears to have been established in 2021 and describes itself simply as a “startup in stealth mode.” The range of jobs listed on its website suggests that it may be well-funded and has set up or is setting up offices in India and the U.K., along with locations in Austin, Portland and Colorado.

Photo: Apple

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