Apple Sues Startup Rivos, Alleges Chip Secrets Stolen Through Engineers

Apple has filed a lawsuit against technology startup Rivos Inc. for allegedly stealing trade secrets from the iPhone maker by poaching engineers — reports Reuters.

According to a lawsuit filed in California federal court, Rivos has managed to get more than 40 of Apple’s former employees to jump ship over the past year to work on “system-on-chip” (SoC) technology to compete with Apple Silicon. The lawsuit alleges that at least two ex-Apple engineers took gigabytes worth of confidential information with them to Rivos.

SoCs are integrated microprocessors that have several critical computer components, such as the CPU, GPU, and RAM, built onto the same chip. Apple today designs its own SoCs for everything from the iPhone to its lineup of Macs. The tech giant is even expected to use its own designs for cellular modems by 2023.

In the lawsuit, Apple said it spent billions of dollars and more than a decade of research on its SoC designs, which have “revolutionized the personal and mobile computing worlds.”

Apple has been bleeding engineering talent as of late, primarily to Facebook’s parent company, Meta Platforms Inc. Cupertino even awarded stock bonuses of up to $180,000 USD to its engineers at the end of last year to prevent them from being lured away by competitors.

You would be forgiven for not having heard of Rivos, though. The Mountain View, California-based company is a “stealth” startup that hasn’t made the news much since being founded last year.

The lawsuit claims that Rivos purposely sought Apple engineers with access to the company’s SoC IP and trade secrets. Apple named two ex-engineers, Bhasi Kaithamana and Ricky Wen, in the lawsuit, alleging they took thousands of files with SoC designs and other confidential information to Rivos.

Apple also claims that several other unnamed employees who now work at Rivos took confidential documents when they left Apple, and even tried to cover it up by wiping data from their Apple-issued devices.

According to Apple, the stolen secrets could be used to “significantly accelerate” the development of competing SoCs. The company’s lawsuit seeks that Rivos be blocked from using its trade secrets in any way and the employees in question ordered to return its property, along with monetary damages.