Apple Sues Rivos Startup for Alleged Theft of Secrets

Apple has sued startup Rivos for allegedly stealing trade secrets related to its latest A15 and M1 system-on-chips. The startup is in stealth mode, but in a year it hired over 40 engineers from Apple and allegedly asked some to take gigabytes of confidential information with them.

Rivos was founded in June 2021 to develop system-on-chips that could rival those used by Apple and other companies. The company allegedly wanted to poach as many Apple employees as possible and so far has hired over 40 engineers from the Cupertino, California-based tech giant, reports Reuters.

Rivos is a startup that operates in stealth mode, so it is unclear what kind of SoCs it intends to develop. Given the nature of A15 and M1, we can speculate that the firm could be looking to the smartphones and PC markets.

According to Apple, at least two of former Apple employees allegedly took thousands of files related to A15 and M1 SoC design and other trade secrets. Rivos allegedly specifically targeted Apple engineers with access to gigabytes of confidential data and asked them to download it to flash drives, reports Bloomberg.

Apple claims that usage of its trade secrets and design of A15 and M1 could significantly accelerate development of Rivos SoCs and provide the company unfair advantages over other processor designers, such as Apple itself. To that end, Apple wants the court to block usage of its highly sensitive proprietary data by Rivos, return its property and award an undisclosed sum in damages.

“Apple has reason to believe that Rivos instructed at least some Apple employees to download and install apps for encrypted communications (e.g., the Signal app) before communicating with them further,” the complaint by Apple reads.

This is not the first time that Apple has sued its former employees. Last year it sued Gerrard Williams III and his colleagues, who founded Nuvia to develop datacenter SoCs with leading performance-per-watt characteristics. The dispute is set to go to trial in October, 2023. Nuvia was eventually sold to Qualcomm, the latter plans to use Nuvia’s CPU designs for it notebook SoCs and officially has no plans to develop datacenter processors.