AMD accuses former bosses of sneaking out trade secrets

Chipmaker AMD is taking four former employees to court, saying that they spied on the company for Nvidia.

Named are a vice-president and three managers from the firm’s Boxborough plant, who left the company to go and work for Nvidia last year.

According to the lawsuit, AMD is certain that vice-president Robert Feldstein, along with managers Manoo Desai, Nicolas Kociuk and Richard Hagen copied more than 100,000 confidential documents and trade secrets to take with them.

AMD said that it wants the files back as they cover everything from upcoming AMD technology to contracts with large and enterprise customers.

The court has issued a temporary restraining order against the four former employees, ordering the preservation of any copies of AMD materials they may have, any computers or devices they may own, and must not divulge or use any AMD confidential information.

Feldstein left AMD in July. He would have seen some interesting paperwork in his time as he helped broker major contracts to see AMD technology launch in the next-generation range of games consoles, including the Xbox, PlayStation, and the Wii U.

AMD said it had “uncovered evidence” that the four had “transferred to external storage devices trade secret files and information in the days prior to their leaving AMD to work for Nvidia”.

The fabless chipmaker said that the files include confidential, proprietary, and trade secret materials relating to developing technology and highly confidential business strategy.

One of the three significant files included two licensing agreements with significant customers, and a document outlining proposed strategies to AMD’s strategic licensing.

If these documents were used by Nvidia, it would have provided its rival with an unfair advantage.

Some of the information appears to have come from an internal database called Perforce. This contains AMD’s technology and development of the company’s process and products. This was apparently added to external drives, and contains plenty of confidential files.

AMD claims that before he left, one of the managers “ran several internet searches about how to copy and/or delete large numbers of documents”.

Needless to say, AMD claims the four were in breach of their contracts, trade secret laws and unfair competition laws, and violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

There is no indication that Nvidia knew about the theft, if indeed it happened the way AMD claims.