Tesla sues ex-employee for allegedly stealing supercomputer trade secrets


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What just happened? In what has become a very familiar scenario within the tech industry, an employee has been accused of stealing trade secrets from a company. In this case, Tesla claims a former engineer pilfered information relating to its supercomputer platform.

Bloomberg reports that Tesla hired thermal engineer Alexander Yatskov in January to help design cooling systems for its in-house supercomputer, dubbed Project Dojo. It's designed to process the vast amounts of data gathered from the company's vehicles, which is used to train the self-driving AI software.

According to a filing in the U.S. District Court in San Jose, Yatskov admitted to downloading confidential information from his Tesla devices to his personal devices. He was put on administrative leave starting April 6 and told to hand in the devices so Tesla could retrieve the stolen information. He allegedly handed over a dummy laptop made to "look like it may have accessed only inoffensive Tesla information, like an offer letter" to try and cover his actions.

Yatskov quit on May 2 and has refused to return the stolen information. He told Bloomberg that he was unaware of the lawsuit.

Tesla also claims Yatskov lied on his resume about his expertise and work experience and that he has breached a non-disclosure agreement the company makes all its engineers sign to protect its trade secrets. Additionally, he is accused of sending emails with classified Tesla information from his personal email address to his work email.

Tesla is suing Yatskov for compensatory and exemplary damages. The company is also seeking a court order forcing Yatskov to return the classified data.

Tesla previously revealed that Dojo is packed with 5,760 GPUs delivering up to 1.8 EFLOPS (exaFLOPS) and is equipped with 10PB of NVMe storage and a 1.6 TB/s connection. The system when completed is expected to sit in fifth place on the TOP500 supercomputer list.

Last week brought news that Apple is suing startup Rivos for allegedly poaching Cupertino engineers to steal its propriety tech for use in rival chip designs. Uber, Opera, Motorola, and many others have been in the courts over claims ex-employees stole their trade secrets.

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Squid Surprise

Posts: 5,335   +4,980
If he is emailing stuff from his personal email to his work email... what's the issue? I understand it might be against policy - but technically, he's just sending stuff to himself - kind of the equivalent of copying files on a personal USB key and copying them to your work PC to work on...

If he was actually trying to steal the stuff... why would he be emailing it BACK to his work email?

This sounds more like he was an incompetent engineer (or they felt he was) and they are trying to prevent him from working elsewhere.


Posts: 176   +101
Stealing secrets to do what? Besides, don't those super computer designers know that once digital data got out, returning the media that carried it is kind of a moot point? Then again, super computers are just computers with excessive specs! Seriously, any competent engineer- given unlimited resources such as those of Tesla- can design the superist of computers!