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Apple sues former employee for allegedly leaking trade secrets to the media

Apple sues former employee for allegedly leaking trade secrets to the media
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Apple filed a lawsuit on Thursday against a former employee that accuses him of leaking trade secrets to an unnamed media contact during his employment. 

The tech giant is taking on Simon Lancaster, who worked at Apple for 11 years before departing in 2019, in a suit filed in federal court in San Jose, Calif., alleging he committed trade secret misappropriation and breached his contract. The lawsuit was first reported by Apple Insider.  

In the lawsuit, Apple asserts that Lancaster, who worked as an advanced materials lead and product design architect, “abused his position and trust within the company to systematically disseminate Apple’s sensitive trade secret information in an effort to obtain personal benefits.”

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Apple cites an internal investigation of Apple-owned devices, which it said determined the media contact requested specific Apple trade secret documents that Lancaster allegedly worked to retrieve and provide to the source through the devices or in person.

The trade secrets revolved around “unreleased Apple hardware products, unannounced feature changes to existing hardware products, and future product announcements, all of which Apple guards closely,” according to the lawsuit.

The company alleges that Lancaster provided the trade secrets in exchange for “favorable” media coverage of a startup that he invested in and for information about an Apple hardware product that “‘could mean trouble’” for his startup.

Lancaster first started talking to the media contact, whose outlet also is unnamed, in 2018 and kept up communication over the next year. Apple claims “it is likely” Lancaster’s “misuse of Apple’s trade secrets continues to this day” as portions of the trade secret relate to his current employment.

In November 2019, Lancaster left his position to become the head of consumer products at material design company Arris Composites.

On his last day at Apple, the company asserts Lancaster downloaded “a substantial number of confidential Apple documents” onto his personal computer about an hour and a half before his employment ended.  

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Apple said in a statement to The Hill that Lancaster’s alleged actions undermined the work of  “tens of thousands of Apple employees.”

“Tens of thousands of Apple employees work tirelessly every day on new products, services and features in the hopes of delighting our customers and empowering them to change the world,” the company said.

“Stealing ideas and confidential information undermines their efforts, hurting Apple and our customers,” the statement continued. “We take very seriously this individual's deliberate theft of our trade secrets, violation of our ethics and our policies, all for personal gain. We will do all we can to protect the innovations we hold so dear.”