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Nvidia sued for theft of trade secrets by car tech firm Valeo

2023-11-27 13:18 by
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Valeo Schalt und Sensoren GmbH, a German automotive parts supplier, has brought a legal action against the semiconductor company Nvidia. The lawsuit stems from allegations that Nvidia indirectly benefited from Valeo's trade secrets through Mohammad Moniruzzaman, a former Valeo employee who later took a position with Nvidia.

According to Valeo's complaint, Mohammad Moniruzzaman, an engineer for NVIDIA who used to work for its company, had mistakenly showed its source code files on his computer as he was sharing his screen during a meeting with both firms in 2022. Valeo's employees quickly recognized the code and took screenshots before Moniruzzaman was notified of his mistake.

Bloomberg notes that Moniruzzaman was convicted of infringing Valeo's business secrets in Germany in September and fined €14,400 ($15,724). But although Nvidia says it has no interest in using the stolen code, Valeo is alleging that its competitor has still benefited from it, saving "millions of dollars in development costs." And if the code was merged into Nvidia's database after "extensive edits and feedback loops by other employees," then Valeo says it's "unrealistic" to think it could ever be fully removed.

To note, Valeo and NVIDIA are working together on an advanced parking and driving assistance technology offered by a manufacturer to its customers. Valeo used to be in charge of both software and hardware sides of the manufacturer's parking assistance tech. In 2021, however, the bigger corporation won the contract to develop its parking assistance software. Valeo wrote in its lawsuit that its former employee, who helped it develop its parking and driving assistance systems, had realized that his exposure and access to its proprietary technologies would make him "exceedingly valuable" to NVIDIA.

The lawsuit goes on to state that German police "discovered Valeo documentation and hardware pinned on the walls of Mr. Moniruzzaman's home office" when they raided his home as part of a criminal investigation, and that Valeo's software and documents were found on his Nvidia computer when it was seized by investigators. Moniruzzaman admitted to stealing Valeo's software when questioned by German police, according to the lawsuit.

This is but another proof that competition continues to heat up in the autonomous driving market. Back in 2017, Waymo accused Uber of colluding with its former employee, Anthony Levandowski, to steal over 14,000 confidential and proprietary design files. Levandowski was sentenced to 18 months in prison, but he was pardoned six months later by then President Donald Trump.

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