Tesla did a lot of trailblazing in the field of electric cars and self-driving, as a result, they feel very defensive about their IP. In the past, they’ve sued Chinese company Xpeng for the alleged theft of software. Now, they are filing suit against Rivian, the electric truck startup, claiming they are stealing secrets by hiring ex-Tesla employees.
Tesla is alleging that Rivian, who has several ex-Tesla recruiters working for them, has been hiring large numbers of Tesla engineers and managers. They say that these people carry with them a huge amount of logistics knowledge, which amounts to trade secrets.
Rivian is knowingly encouraging the misappropriation of Tesla’s trade secret, confidential, and proprietary information by Tesla employees that Rivian hires. In about the past week, Tesla has discovered disturbing pattern of employees who are departing for Rivian surreptitiously stealing Tesla trade secret, confidential, and proprietary information—information that is especially useful for startup electric vehicle company. And Rivian encourages those thefts even though Rivian is well aware of Tesla employees’ confidentiality obligations. In fact, 13 Rivian recruiters are from Tesla, and they themselves are still subject to Tesla’s confidentiality obligations.
Tesla specifically names several ex-employees. One, Tami Pascale, has been accused of downloading specific documents before leaving, with the aim of helping Rivian. Tesla claims Pascale did this under the direction of another ex-employee of their’s, who also works at Rivian.
Tesla investigators discovered the misappropriation and interviewed Pascale by phone on July 6, 2020. Pascale falsely denied taking any documents from Tesla. When pressed, she continued her denial, claiming to only have taken personal documents. Only after investigators confronted her with specific documents she had taken, Pascale finally confessed to taking the confidential and proprietary documents.
In other details of the suit, Tesla claims that several workers took measures to download and export confidential documents soon after accepting positions with Rivian. One named defendant apparently even took a work laptop, and refused to return it.
We’ve recently covered the influx of Rivian hires from Tesla’s charging infrastructure division. Those employees were also subject of the lawsuit, since Tesla claims that the Rivian Adventure Network will be a copy of their Supercharger Network.
As for the lawsuit against Xpeng, which was similar in its accusations, it didn’t pan out in Tesla’s favor. No telling if these accusations will be found compelling in this new California case.