Startup Rivos’ Shocking Revelation: Apple’s Intimidation Tactics on Departing Employees

TechWizard Feature: Startup Rivos Countersues Apple

Startup Rivos Countersues Apple, Alleging Restrictive Agreements and Anticompetitive Measures

Chip startup Rivos is countersuing Apple Inc., claiming that the tech giant forces employees to sign restrictive agreements that prevent them from working elsewhere and stifle up-and-coming companies that hire its staff. The countersuit, filed by Rivos and six ex-Apple employees in a San Jose federal court, escalates an acrimonious trade secret feud that began when Apple sued Rivos and former employees who joined the startup last year.

Rivos is pushing back by asking the court to rule that Apple’s “overbroad” non-disclosure and non-solicit agreements are unenforceable. The startup accuses Apple of trying to thwart emerging startups through anticompetitive measures, including illegally restricting employee mobility. An Apple spokesman declined to comment on the matter.

Apple had initially accused Rivos and the employees in a lawsuit of luring away its engineers and stealing proprietary information used to develop its homegrown chip designs. The dispute revolves around “system-on-chip” technology, which Apple claims it has invested billions of dollars in to make its devices more powerful.

Rivos argues that Apple’s Intellectual Property Agreement, which employees sign as a condition of employment, is too expansive and covers anything “learned” during the course of employment, regardless of whether it is a trade secret. The agreement also includes a non-solicitation provision, which Rivos claims is designed to restrict employee mobility and competition.

Furthermore, Rivos alleges that Apple allows employees to store work documents in their iCloud and iMessage accounts without inspecting the data and messages when they leave the company.

This is not the first time Apple has been involved in a trade secret dispute with a former employee. In 2019, Apple sued Gerard Williams III, a former lead chip architect, for trade secrets theft after he co-founded a chip startup called Nuvia Inc. Williams retaliated, stating that Apple’s lawsuit aimed to stifle innovation and limit the freedom of entrepreneurs. Apple requested the dismissal of the lawsuit against Williams in April.

Rivos claims that Apple used the same tactics against Nuvia and Williams to target their startup. In August, a US District Judge threw out Apple’s trade secret claims against Rivos but allowed the iPhone maker to file a revised complaint.

The case between Apple Inc. and Rivos Inc. is ongoing in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).