Apple claims ‘stealth mode’ startup poached engineers who took chip secrets


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Apple has filed a lawsuit against a Mountain View, California startup called Rivos it claims poached employees who took chip-design secrets on their way out of the Cupertino iPhone giant.

“Rivos continues to target Apple engineers, with more departures occurring this month,” the lawsuit filed Friday alleged.

The startup, currently describing itself on its website as in “stealth mode,” has hired more than 40 former Apple employees in the last year, the suit alleged.

“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 (chip) designs,” the suit filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose claimed.

Rivos instructed some of the workers to download and install encrypted-communications apps before it had further conversations with them, the suit alleged.

Rivos did not immediately respond to emailed requests and voicemails seeking comment.

The majority of workers who left Apple for the startup were design engineers working on computer and phone chips, according to the suit.

Apple claims its forensic analysis of the devices the employees returned to it before leaving show they took the information.

At issue are Apple’s M1 computer chip—designed in-house and released in late 2020, marking the firm’s move away from Intel’s processing chips—and the “A15” chip used in the latest iPhones. Apple has dedicated billions of dollars to development of the chips, it said in the suit.

Rivos was founded a year ago with the aim of producing chips to compete against Apple, the suit claimed. Information taken by Apple workers hired by Rivos included “some of Apple’s most highly-sensitive and valuable information” that will “provide a significant, unfair advantage to Rivos in developing advanced … chips,” the suit alleged.

The suit also names two former Apple employees alleged to have taken secret data with them to Rivos. Bhasi Kaithamana worked at Apple in Austin, Texas, for…