Tesla wrecked Bay Area engineer’s reputation with false claim of secrets theft: court filing
07/07/2022 03:42 PM
Tesla has allegedly ruined the reputation of a Bay Area engineer by filing a lawsuit falsely accusing him of stealing trade secrets, according to court filings. The electric car company headed by CEO Elon Musk filed suit in May, accusing engineer Alex Yatskov of transferring from his work devices to his personal devices confidential information about the artificial-intelligence supercomputer he was hired to help keep cool, and handing company investigators a “dummy” laptop in a bid to cover his tracks. In a court filing last month responding to the lawsuit, Yatskov compared Tesla’s “tale of deception and espionage” to a spy novel by John le Carré. “The story, coupled with spurious personal attacks calculated to destroy Yatskov’s integrity publicly, created a three-ring circus around Yatskov and ruined his reputation,” the filing alleged. “When examined more closely, Tesla’s version of events requires so many illogical leaps that the story is not plausible.” Tesla, which in December moved its headquarters from Palo Alto to Austin, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The supercomputer, nicknamed Dojo, is used for projects such as autonomous driving, according to Tesla’s lawsuit. Yatskov, a thermal engineer, was hired in late January, working in Tesla offices in Fremont, where the firm has a car-making plant. Tesla had put Yatskov on administrative leave after telling him repeatedly not to use personal devices for work related to the supercomputer, and he was asked to bring in his personal devices for “forensic imaging,” Tesla’s suit alleged. But the laptop he handed over was not the one he used to take confidential data, the suit claimed. Yatskov’s filing said he had acknowledged to Tesla that he had company information on his personal devices, but that Tesla has identified no written policy barring employees from having such data on their own devices. He also acknowledged that the laptop he gave to Tesla had not been used since 2020 other than having recently added “innocuous” documents concerning Tesla, such as a hiring letter. “Tesla unreasonably inferred that the laptop must be a ‘dummy’ that Yatskov intentionally produced to trick Tesla into thinking that he did not have Tesla information on his personal devices,” Yatskov’s filing said. “Tesla’s story, however sensational, does not hold water. One would have to believe that an engineer with a PhD who has worked for numerous tech companies over a decades-long career was foolish enough to think that he could deceive the security team of a major tech company with a laptop when the metadata could easily be checked. “One would also have to believe that Yatskov told Tesla that he had Tesla information on his personal devices as part of his master plan to hide the fact that he had Tesla information on his personal devices.” Tesla alleged in a filing following its initial complaint that Yatskov had some of its files on a different computer, but never claimed that in the complaint, Yatskov’s filing said. “Still, having files on his computer while employed at Tesla is not misappropriation,” the filing said. Related Articles Technology | Noose drawing, lynching reference left up for months at Tesla’s Fremont factory, civil-rights lawsuit claims Technology | Tesla: Will Big Auto eat pioneering electric car maker’s lunch? Technology | Tesla claims it hired liar who stole trade secrets, tried to cover tracks with ‘dummy’ laptop Yatskov resigned from Tesla in May. Tesla has produced “absolutely no facts” to support a claim that Yatskov used or disclosed its trade secrets, Yatskov’s filing in U.S. District Court in San Francisco said.