Trade SecretsThe Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and the Detroit Auto Show unveiled the latest in driverless vehicles, also known as autonomous, automated or self-driving cars. Automakers and technology companies have spent millions of dollars in the development and testing of this transportation innovation. In consequence, the technology behind driverless vehicles is competitive and highly confidential. In the news, one company (plaintiff) is suing three of its competitors (defendants) for allegedly stealing components of its self-driving car technology.

In the court filing, the plaintiff, alleges that defendants stole some 10GB of trade secrets on its self-driving car program. The plaintiff also found that one of its former employees and founder of a company now within the defendants, had downloaded over 14,000 highly confidential files, including “proprietary design files for [plaintiff’s] various hardware systems…” The complaint states:

This is an action for trade secret misappropriation, patent infringement, and unfair competition relating to the plaintiff’s self-driving car technology… The defendants have taken plaintiff’s intellectual property so that they could avoid incurring the risk, time, and expense of independently developing their own technology. Ultimately, this calculated theft reportedly netted the defendant’s employees over half a billion dollars and allowed the defendant to revive a stalled program, all at plaintiff’s expense.

A number of the plaintiff’s employees subsequently also left to join one of the defendants’ new business, downloading additional trade secrets from the plaintiff in the days and hours prior to their departure. These secrets included confidential supplier lists, manufacturing details and statements of work with highly technical information, all of which reflected the results of the plaintiff’s months-long, resource-intensive research into suppliers for highly specialized LiDAR sensor components.

With dominance in a new industry worth billions of dollars at stake as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in development costs at issue, this litigation will be hard fought. When confidential business information is compromised, the competitor has created an advantage that may be considered unfair competition and violation of a trade secret. Litigation in unfair competition and trade secret law requires an expert witness with trial experience in the case alleging a breach of trade secret. These experts are trained to analyze the elements of trade secret violations as well as present their unbiased findings to the court in language understandable to the jury. Hiring the right trade secret expert witness for your case is crucial to your argument before the court.