FREMONT (CBS SF / CNN) — Tesla has filed suit in a California court against its potential rival Rivian, alleging that the Michigan-based electric truck maker poached its employees and instructed at least one employee to steal trade secrets. Rivian calls the suit “baseless.”
In its lawsuit, Tesla claimed Rivian has hired away dozens of its former employees and alleged that some of them took confidential manufacturing, organizational and recruiting information, as well as lists of Tesla employees who could be targeted for hiring.
In addition to the company, the lawsuit names four former Tesla employees who were hired by Rivian. It accuses each of taking documents from Tesla in violation of non-disclosure agreements they had signed when they were first hired.
“This dispute stems from Rivian’s efforts to misappropriate Tesla’s trade secret, confidential and proprietary information by recruiting Tesla employees and encouraging them to take such information as they leave Tesla,” the lawsuit claims.
A Rivian spokesperson denied the charges in the lawsuit.
“This suit’s allegations are baseless and run counter to Rivian’s culture, ethos and corporate policies,” she said in an emailed statement.
“Upon joining Rivian, we require all employees to confirm that they have not, and will not, introduce former employers’ intellectual property into Rivian systems,” the company added.
So far, Rivian has hired a total of 178 Tesla employees, 70 of whom went to Rivian directly from Tesla, the suit alleges. Rivian, which has around 2,300 employees, plans to produce electric pickup trucks, SUVs and delivery vans at a former Mitsubishi factory in Illinois. Among Rivian’s investors are Amazon, Ford and Cox Automotive.
Two of the Rivian employees named in the suit work in Rivian’s recruiting department. The lawsuit alleges that one of them was encouraged by Rivian to steal documents, including recruiting plans and pay and bonus formulas.
Another Rivian employee named in the suit had previously worked in the environmental health and safety department at Tesla. Tesla alleges the former employee sent documents to a personal account related to setting up a factory, such as robotics and other manufacturing automation processes.
Rivian also hired a Tesla manager who, according to the suit, emailed to a personal account a list of Tesla employees who were experts in setting up and managing electric vehicle charging networks. Tesla claims that list — of employees it said were later targeted for recruitment by Rivian — was confidential information.
CNN has attempted to contact the four individuals named in the suit, but has yet to receive responses from them.
The lawsuit also alleges twenty other unnamed Rivian employees who used to work at Tesla may also have stolen trade secrets from Tesla. Their names could be added to the suit later.
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