Apple is suing a startup for poaching engineers with access to critical chipset information

Apple is suing a startup for poaching engineers with access to critical chipset information

Tech Highlights:

  • The M-series is known for its high transistor count. For example, the M1 Ultra (which is made up of two connecting M1 Max chips) sports 114 billion transistors. Compare that to the 15 billion transistors found in the A15 Bionic chip that powers the iPhone 13 series. Apple is currently using its M1 chip (with 16 billion transistors) on two of its iPad tablets: the iPad Pro and the iPad Air. Apple’s reputation as a chip designer has greatly improved

  • With its Application Processors (AP) that deliver power and energy conservation, Apple has established itself as a formidable chip designer. Apple’s Cupertino, California-based headquarters design the A-series chips used in its mobile devices such as the iPhone, as well as the newer M-series chips that have replaced the Intel processors used in the Mac. The M-series chipsets, like the A-series, are built on Arm architecture and TSMC’s 5nm process node.

Apple’s reputation as an outstanding chip designer has resulted in the company accusing a startup firm called Rivos of poaching Apple engineers that have access to proprietary information used in the production of Apple’s chips. The firm believes that former Apple employees, as part of Rivos’ recruiting plans, were asked to steal some of its intellectual property so it could be used by Rivos.

In the complaint, Apple explains the various ways that its former employees passed along to Rivos the gigabytes of information about Apple’s proprietary designs and trade secrets. The use of multiple USB storage devices was one way that Apple’s former employees transferred data from Apple to their personal mobile devices. Another method used by former Apple employees to transfer Apple’s secret chip plans was the use of Apple’s AirDrop feature to send files to personal devices (such as an iPhone) owned by Rivos employees.

Former Apple employees were told to use various methods to transfer stolen data to Rivos. – Apple sues startup for poaching engineers with knowledge of key chipset information Former Apple employees were told to use various methods to transfer stolen data to Rivos. In its complaint filed with the court, Apple wrote, “Starting in June 2021, Rivos began a coordinated campaign to target Apple employees with access to Apple’s proprietary and trade secret information about Apple’s SoC designs.” Apple responded by sending a letter to Rivos that explained the confidentiality agreement that Apple’s former employees must adhere to but received nothing in return from the startup.

Presentations for upcoming and unreleased Apple chipsets in files that were marked “Apple Proprietary and Confidential” were made available to Rivos by former Apple employees. And Apple accuses Rivos of telling its former employees which apps to install on their personal devices so that they can transfer proprietary Apple information to Rivos using encrypted data. Apple seeks to recover its trade secrets, protect them from further disclosure, and uncover how Rivos planned to use them

Apple said that it “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.” Besides naming Rivos as a defendant, Apple includes two former employees, Wen Shih-Chieh a/k/a Ricky Wen and Bhasi Kaithamana as defendants. In the lawsuit Apple says that it “aims 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.”

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