The Case: An Electric Vehicle Maker Defends Itself Amid Claims of Trade Secret Misappropriation
The plaintiff, a luxury electric vehicle manufacturer, sued a competing EV automaker after alleging that they engaged in a fraudulent contract that led to blatant theft of trade secrets regarding the company’s proprietary infotainment system. They also claimed that the opposing party poached a specialized team of employees who were engineering the system, leading to the disclosure of confidential information detailing its code, technical specifications, and design.
The Ask: A Testifying Expert with EE Architecture Experience
The defendant approached WIT to provide an expert who possessed a deep understanding of electrical/ electronic (EE) architectures and could opine on the similarities and differences between the companies’ systems. The case also called for an expert proficient in source code to review the specific files and lines of code that are at the center of this dispute, proving that the alleged code featured generic, widely available information rather than critical aspects of the plaintiff’s proprietary code.
Why WIT Was Best Suited to Meet the Expert Need
In anticipation of an influx of disputes regarding innovative electric vehicle systems, WIT has actively recruited and retained world-class academics, industry executives, and subject-matter experts to support clients involved in future automotive technology litigation. For this case, WIT was able to recommend two experts; the first is an academic who possessed more than ten years of experience in the field of intelligent transportation systems. This professor was able to opine on whether our client copied portions of the plaintiffs’ source code. The second expert was an industry veteran with more than 30 years of experience in automotive engineering. This industry insider was retained to provide insights on the plaintiff’s bill of materials and product development system to conclude if they included confidential information that would benefit the defendant.
The Legal Landscape: Automotive Trade Secrets Litigation is on the Rise
The electric vehicles market has grown exponentially since the start of 2020, with competition from major industry players and start-ups alike making the industry ripe for innovation, integration, and as a result, theft. As more automakers enter the EV race and attempt to establish industry dominance, the risk of theft of trade secrets disputes is rapidly expanding as a result of ongoing tech layoffs, industry convergences, and more. In addition to the above conflict, other major names in the industry have been embroiled in high-stakes trade secrets litigation over the past few years, and these conflicts have largely been driven by the transference of employees throughout the industry.
For example, earlier this year, Tesla accused a former exothermal engineer of transferring confidential documents about Project Dojo, Tesla’s autonomous driving effort, to his personal computer. Ford has also been in the courts after violating a contract with Versata Software, ultimately being found guilty of misusing trade secrets and being hit with a $105 million verdict. In the start-up world, Canoo sued a group of ex-employees earlier this year after they reportedly stole trade secrets to create a competing EV company, breaching separation agreements.
To combat further theft and protect themselves from the competition, companies are now looking to hire legal counsel who can help them create a theft prevention strategy. Rivian brought on Michael Callahan as their legal chief to guide them through this pivotal time of growth and change. Similarly, Rivian rival Tesla is also beefing up their legal department; in February, the company brought on former Dish Network lawyer, Brandon Ehrhart.
To learn more about the trade secrets disputes in the automotive industry, download our latest white paper that explores what exactly is driving disputes, and how experts can positively impact your litigation strategy.
How Experts Can Assist in Automotive Trade Secrets Litigation
While things have shifted exponentially since the start of the new decade, one thing is for certain: trade secrets litigation in the industry is becoming increasingly complex and widespread. Companies working in the automotive space need to begin preparing for potential conflict now as industries continue to merge, regulations continue to shift, and the economy continues to fluctuate. To ensure that they are getting the most comprehensive, well-informed opinion on their litigation strategies, counsel should be looking to engage with experts to provide insights essential to any trade secrets dispute. Expert testimony can add credibility to arguments, refute the opposing counsel’s position, and reinforce the legal team’s believability in court.
An EV trade secrets litigation expert team could feature:
- Chief information security officers to help identify potential security risks and assist companies in creating risk management strategies to protect proprietary technology
- Industry insiders and veterans with knowledge of the EV landscape, EV adoption, and related regulations and standards
- Valuation specialists who can assess the value of stolen automotive tech and assess licensing agreements related to trade secrets
- Economists on patent pools and damages analyses to understand the financial impact of the misappropriation of trade secrets
- Mechanical engineers on electric vehicle components and manufacturing processes
- Software engineers who can evaluate code and systems to identify the source and extent of trade secret theft
If your company needs help preparing for challenges surrounding innovations in electric vehicle charging technology, reach out to WIT for the best experts who can advise you on your strategy. Our electric vehicles expert team was created to address what we expect to be the key areas of litigation in the move to electric fleets.