Tesla Sues Rivian Over Stolen Secrets, Poached Employees

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
tesla sues rivian over stolen secrets poached employees

Tesla is accusing Rivian Automotive of poaching its employees and lifting trade secrets in a recent complaint filed in San Jose, CA. Founded in 2009 by Massachusetts Institute of Technology alum R.J. Scaringe, Rivian has made inroads with the automotive sector and established partnerships with entities like Amazon and Ford Motor Company ( we think).

While its home base is presently TBD, as the company considers shifting more of its staff to the West Coast, its mission has remained consistent — manufacture all-electric SUVs and pickups so they can wash over North America.

Rivian is one of those “Tesla killers” you keep hearing about before they suddenly blip out of existence, but it has enough weight behind it to potentially offer real competition in the future it plays its cards right. Tesla is just worried that some of those cards might not belong to Rivian.

“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 0f 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,” reads the complaint.

“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.”

It names a handful of ex-employees that recently went to work for Rivian and suggests they downloaded sensitive information before leaving — similar to what we saw in the Waymo-Uber lawsuit. It even goes so far as to say it has proof of an employee sending confidential documents to Rivian while still technically employed by Tesla. Another employee was said to have taken a Tesla-owned laptop home with them that they refused to return.

According to Bloomberg, Rivian denies the allegations. “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 in an e-mail. “This requires the contribution and know-how of thousands of employees from across the technology and automotive spaces.”

The company has also started waving off claims that it has decided to move the majority of its office space to California.

From Bloomberg:

Tesla has previously sued former employees for allegedly taking its trade secrets to China’s Xpeng Motors and Silicon Valley-based Zoox Inc.

In the new lawsuit, Tesla called itself Rivian’s “number one target from which to acquire information,” and said that Rivian has hired 178 ex-Tesla employees, roughly 70 of whom joined Rivian directly from Tesla.

Rivian said in its statement that “we admire Tesla for its leadership in resetting expectations of what an electric car can be,” while calling the claims in the lawsuit baseless and “counter to Rivian’s culture, ethos and corporate policies.”

Tesla looks to be coming in hot with this one. Most of the employees named in the filing ( available here) have supposedly been caught red handed, with Tesla holding the receipts — or would at least Tesla would like it to appear that way in a courtroom. It definitely feels as though the company lost a not-insignificant number of staff to Rivian and is suspicious of some of the last-minute actions taken before their departure. One of those most blatant example revolves around former EHS Manger Jessica Siron, who now works at Rivian in an identical capacity. Tesla said she refused to remove sensitive documents from her personal cloud and made off with data she had little reason for possessing in the first place.

“These documents consisted of highly sensitive trade secret, confidential, and proprietary engineering information about manufacturing project management, controls specifications for manufacturing equipment, specifications regarding manufacturing robotics, and manufacturing equipment requirements,” Tesla claimed. “These documents would be used rarely, if at all, by Siron as manager of Environmental Health and Safety, yet she exported them shortly after accepting her offer at Rivian.”

[Image: JL IMAGES/Shutterstock]

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5 of 11 comments
  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Jul 23, 2020

    I know at least one engineer who left Tesla to join Rivian. I can ask him why.

  • Jkross22 Jkross22 on Jul 23, 2020

    Poached employees? Maybe if Tesla didn't treat their employees so poorly, they wouldn't be having this problem. Tesla is not known to possess a good working environment.

    • See 2 previous
    • Lynchenstein Lynchenstein on Jul 24, 2020

      @mcs Yep. Musk may be a jerk at times, but he's no fool.

  • Lou_BC Lightning Flash? Seriously? I'm shocked. This will generate much static from the usual suspects. Some will get a charge from it. Others a discharge.Resistance is futile? Gotta chant to calm down: Ohmmm Ohmmm Ohmmm
  • Lou_BC "Barra accused the UAW of having no real intent of making a deal with the industry" Seriously? I guess it's so obvious. They just want to sit around basking in your hotness ;)
  • TheEndlessEnigma Where's the Tassos rant?!
  • Urlik The best way to crush F1 politics is to be good. Looking at you Red Bull.
  • Art_Vandelay Good. As an Alfa fan it will be good to have someone on the grid they might actually be capable of beating!