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Tesla sues former employee for allegedly stealing software code

Conveyances pass the Tesla Inc. assembly plant in Fremont, California, U.S., on Monday, May 11, 2020.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Spitting images

Tesla is suing a former employee and software engineer named Alex Khatilov, alleging trade secret rip-off and breach of contract.

In the complaint, the company accuses Khatilov of grabbing code and files from WARP Drive, a back-end software modus operandi that Tesla developed to automate a range of business processes involved in manufacturing and selling its cars. They also accuse him of strike out possible evidence when security teams confronted him.

Khatilov was hired to help Tesla’s Quality Assurance group create software that could automate tasks or business processes related to Environment, Health and Safety.

The beef says he began working for Tesla on December 28, 2020, and almost immediately began uploading files and scripts (composed in a programming language called Python) to his Dropbox account. Tesla confronted him about his alleged theft on January 6th.

The jurisprudence is of concern to Tesla because it could reveal to competitors “which systems Tesla believes are important and valuable to automate and how to automate them – specifying a roadmap to copy Tesla’s innovation,” the complaint says.

This isn’t the first time that Tesla has sued or accused ex-employees of calling theft. Tesla sued Guangzhi Cao for copying Autopilot source code to his personal accounts and devices in late 2018. That container is still ongoing.

The company also sued former employees who wound up at other electric and autonomous vehicle trades, Rivian and Zoox, over alleged theft of intellectual property.

Tesla revealed in the new complaint on Friday that just 40 people of about 50,000 total employees work on the company’s Quality Assurance team that appointed Khatilov. The company also says it has spent an estimated “200 man-years of work” to develop the code in question.

The casing is here:

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