Advanced Micro Devices alleges ex-employees stole files

Four former employees of Advanced Micro Devices Inc. are being sued for stealing company secrets and soliciting other employees to jump ship for Nvidia Corp. The trade secrets dispute filed by the California PC processor and chipset manufacturer says the workers spent their last days at AMD downloading 100,000 “sensitive” files.

The defendants worked together at an Advanced Micro Devices facility on the East Coast. The intellectual property complaint alleges three defendants transferred trade secrets. Some of the men reportedly engaged a fourth ex-employee to recruit AMD staff members to leave the company.

Advanced Micro claims the files transferred to storage devices contained company strategies for the development of new processes and products. The files also included licensing contracts and detailed technical information that would be invaluable to its competitor Nvidia.

A federal judge responded by barring the defendants from destroying or revealing any AMD secrets. The restraining order also prohibited the AMD defectors from trying to solicit any former colleagues from Advanced Micro. Nvidia is not a defendant in the lawsuit.

Advanced Micro is seeking economic damages. The company wants the judge to issue a permanent injunction to stop any trade secret disclosures.

Many employees sign confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements when they are hired by a company. The legal contracts bind the employee and the company to pact where non-public company information is involved.

Companies agree to share “sensitive” materials with workers. In exchange, employees agree not to make those secrets known, especially to competitors. Confidentiality agreements may list specific areas employers wish to protect including business plans, customer and vendor information, patent details and financial data.

California laws concerning non-disclosure agreements sometimes favor workers over the companies who employ them. An intellectual property attorney can outline the differences between California and out-of-state intellectual property cases.

Advanced Micro Systems filed the trade secrets lawsuit in Massachusetts in the jurisdiction where the four defendants once worked.

Source: bloomberg.com, “Advanced Micro Devices Sues Ex-Workers Over Trade Secrets,” Don Jeffrey, Jan. 17, 2013