Tesla sues former employees for allegedly stealing data, Autopilot source code

Daniel Fowler
March 23, 2019

Tesla on Wednesday slapped lawsuits against many former employees alleging theft of trade secrets and using them to the benefit of rival start ups.

Tesla also notes that while Emigh was already working for Zoox, he ended up sending a message to Cooper's old Tesla email account with a document attached.

Cao now works at XMotors, Xiaopeng's USA subsidiary.

Tesla filed two lawsuits late on Wednesday against multiple former employees and the self-driving startup Zoox for allegedly misappropriating the company's trade secrets.

"Absent immediate relief, Tesla believes Cao and his new employer, [XPeng], will continue to have unfettered access to Tesla's marquee technology, the product of more than five years' work and over hundreds of millions of dollars of investment, which they have no legal right to possess", the company's lawyers write.

Separately, Tesla lawyers on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against four former employees and U.S. self-driving auto startup Zoox Inc, alleging the employees stole proprietary information and trade secrets for developing warehousing, logistics and inventory control operations.

Google's parent company Alphabet Inc's Waymo dragged Uber Technologies to court after one of its executives joined Uber as chief of self-driving auto project. The document contained an attachment with a "modified version of a Tesla proprietary document, freshly-emblazoned with the Zoox logo, yet still bearing the layout, design, and other vestiges of the Tesla version".

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Founded in 2014 Tim Kentley-Klay and Dr. Jesse Levinson, Zoox is a California based robotics startup that creates autonomous mobility. Moreover, Cao, while leaving the company, deleted 140,000 files from his work computer, then "repeatedly logged into Tesla's secure networks", presumably to do some cleaning-up.

Guangzhi Cao reportedly copied more than 300,000 files of Autopilot source code. Tesla says the group's alleged theft was "blatant and intentional".

Xpeng founder He Xiaopeng said on his personal social media account that his company has been developing its self-driving technology independently.

The Guangzhou-based company's United States research arm, XMotors.ai, said in a statement Thursday that it "respects any third-party's intellectual property rights and confidential information". The company has been complying and will comply all applicable laws and regulations.

The company was not aware of Cao's alleged misconduct and the company has started an internal investigation on the matter, Xiaopeng spokeswoman Marie Cheung said in a statement.

XPeng recently unveiled its new electric G3 SUV, and will debut its new electric sedan at the Shanghai Auto Show in April.

The US company is suing Cao for punitive damages and seeking a court order to prevent him from retaining and using Tesla's trade secrets and confidential information.

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