Tech workers moving from one company to another is not new. However, sometimes, the former employer alleges the departing employee is taking their trade secrets with them, as Tesla has accused a former engineer.
Tesla is alleging the engineer, Alexander Yatskov, has admitted to the theft of its supercomputer secrets in a lawsuit filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California. As reported by Bloomberg, the secrets pertained to the company’s new supercomputer named Project Dojo. Yatskov allegedly downloaded the information about the project onto his own devices and won’t give it up.
However, Tesla’s problem with Yatskov didn’t start with the stolen data, as he allegedly fudged his work history and skills. He was engaged in January when he started working on the thermal engineering of the cooling system for the supercomputer. This gave Yatskov access to confidential information about the computer.
Tesla is building Dojo to be able to handle large volumes of information to be used in training the AI that powers its autonomous cars.
According to the electric car company, it makes all engineers sign an NDA that prevents them from passing on info about the computer or even storing it on their own devices. Yatskov has allegedly gone against the agreement by moving Tesla’s confidential info from his work device to his personal device and accessing it there. The former employee is also accused of sending emails containing confidential info from his personal email to his official one.
When confronted, Tesla says Yatskov admitted to putting confidential info on his unauthorized devices. This led to the company putting him on administrative leave last month. Yatskov was asked to bring his devices to work so that Tesla’s info could be retrieved, but the defendant decided to turn in a “dummy” laptop. Tesla claims Yatskov brought another laptop made to look like he only used it to access information that was not confidential, in an attempt to cover up his theft.
Yatskov has resigned from Tesla, but the company decided to pursue compensation for damages caused and compel Yatskov to return its confidential information.
Tesla decided to build the computer it needed when it couldn’t find one that suited its needs. The company wants to handle video and image data from more than one million cars currently on the road. The CEO Elon Musk has claimed Dojo would be capable of over an exaflop of computation, or one quintillion floating-point operations per second. There is a possibility that Dojo will become the most powerful supercomputer in the world when completed.