Apple is Suing Rivos, a RISC V startup, for Violation of the Trade Secrets Act due to Former Engineers Stealing Sensitive Chip Technology+
Apple is suing a RISC V startup by the name of Rivos Inc. that is based in Santa Clara California and Austin Texas for (1) Breach of Contract, and (2) Violation of the Defend Trade Secrets Act. The company has many engineers from Apple, Google, Qualcomm, Intel and more. Apple's California filing states that "Apple brings this action to prevent Rivos and its employees from exploiting Apple’s most valuable trade secrets to compete with Apple unlawfully and unfairly." Later, Apple states that "Former Apple Employees Leaving for Rivos Retained Apple Confidential and Proprietary Trade Secrets After Accepting Offers from Rivos."
Apple's Official Introduction to the case against Rivos Inc States the Following:
"Apple’s cutting-edge, advanced system-on-chip (“SoC”) designs, including its M1laptop SoC and A15 mobile phone SoC, have revolutionized the personal and mobile computing worlds. Apple has devoted billions of dollars and more than a decade of effort to develop the proprietary technologies and expertise necessary to engineer these revolutionary SoC designs and become a leader in the field of semiconductor design.
"Stealth mode" startup Rivos, which was founded to design and market its own competing SoCs, has filled out its ranks with dozens of former Apple engineers. Starting in June 2021, Rivos began a coordinated campaign to target Apple employees with access to Apple proprietary and trade secret information about Apple’s SoC designs. Apple promptly sent Rivos a letter informing Rivos of the confidentiality obligations of Apple’s former employees, but Rivos never responded.
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. 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. 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.
Apple welcomes and values open competition and the innovation that can result. But that competition cannot be built on the back of trade secret theft. The sheer volume of information taken, the highly sensitive nature of that information, and the fact that these employees are now performing the same duties for a competitor with ongoing access to some of Apple’s most valuable trade secrets, leave Apple with few alternatives. If Apple does not act to protect its most sensitive secrets now, Apple could lose trade secret status over them entirely. That outcome is untenable given Apple’s extensive investments of time and resources into its SoC programs. The full extent of the use and disclosure of Apple’s trade secret information at Rivos also is uniquely within the possession of the Individual Defendants and Rivos, particularly since Defendants have taken actions to conceal evidence regarding their misconduct. Apple therefore has no choice but to bring this action to recover its trade secrets, to protect them from further disclosure, and to uncover the full extent of their use to try to mitigate the harm that has and will occur."
For more details, read Apple's full complaint filed with the court in the full SCRIBD document below, courteous of Patently Apple.
For a little background on Rivos, you could check out a report by SemiAnalysis.