Apple Accuses ‘Stealth Mode’ Start-up Rivos of Stealing Trade Secrets

Apple Inc. has filed suit against Rivos Inc., a start-up that seeks to produce competing semiconductor technology, and in its pursuit, allegedly stacked its roster with former Apple engineers and instructed them to copy confidential information about Apple’s system-on-chip (SoC) designs before their departure. The suit, filed last Friday in San Jose, California, names not only Rivos, but three of its current employees, former Apple employees, as defendants.

According to the filing, Apple has “revolutionized the personal and mobile computing worlds” with its advanced SoC designs, including those for its M1 laptop and A15 mobile phone. The company says it has spent more than a decade developing these technologies and devoted billions of dollars to the effort.

Allegedly, and beginning 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.” Noting the exodus, Apple sent Rivos a letter, reminding it of the employees’ confidentiality requirements, but allegedly received no response. 

The complaint specifies that some engineers used multiple USB storage drives to offload material to personal devices, while others AirDrop-transferred files, and one even made a full backup of his entire Apple device and loaded it onto a personal hard drive. According to Apple, Rivos may have instructed its new recruits to do so.

Apple claims it is now backed into a corner, left with little choice but to sue because the volume and importance of the information has given a competitor unfair access to its most valuable trade secrets. The filing states one claim against the three former employees for breach of contract and one against all defendants for theft of trade secrets.

The complaint seeks damages and injunctive relief barring the misappropriation of its trade secrets. Apple is represented by Morrison & Foerster LLP.