(Photo : Youtube/ Simone Internauto) Tesla lawsuit against employee

On January 22, Tesla went to court to file a lawsuit. The company claimed that a newly hired software engineer transferred more than 26,000 confidential documents to his personal Dropbox, including trade secrets.

Tesla files lawsuit against engineer

Alex Khaitov, the senior software quality assurance engineer, started his job at Tesla on December 28, 2020 and almost immediately began downloading thousands of sensitive files, according to Tesla.

Tesla said in a complaint filed on January 22 in the San Jose Division of the US district court of the Northern District of California that in just three days after he was hired, Khaitov stole thousands of trade secret computer scripts. These scripts took Tesla years to develop.

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Tesla is suing Khaitov and the company accused him of stealing trade secrets and confidential information, as well as breaching his contract. Khatilov was fired when the internal investigators discovered the file transfer, according to Tesla. Alex Khatilov denies all of the accusations, according to MailOnline.

Khatilov became the latest employee in Silicon Valley to be accused by Tesla of trade secret theft. Former Tesla employees working at Zoox were also sued back in 2019 for the same issue, according to Business Insider.

In March 2020, Tesla sued Rivian, a company competitor, stating that its employees also stole trade secrets. Martin Tripp, a former Tesla process technician, was set to pay Tesla $400,000 for sharing trade secrets, according to a court filing on December 2020.

Only 40 people on Khatilov's team of quality assurance engineers had access to the trade secrets that he was accused of stealing, according to Tesla. Within that group, only 8 engineers could access the files. According to Tesla, they detected Khatilov's downloads on January 6.

According to Tesla, Khatilov gave company investigators access to his Dropbox, saying he would only transfer a couple personal administrative documents.

Tesla stated that its investigators viewed his Dropbox account. They discovered that his claims were outright lies, saying that he had transferred thousands of Tesla's computer scripts to his personal Dropbox.

Tesla added that Khatilov lied about it and that he tried to delete the evidence of his theft when he was confronted by the security team, forcing the company to file a complaint. Tesla said Khatilov claimed he forgot about the files.

Theft case

On January 22, Khatilov was interviewed by The New York Post, he said that he have been working for 20 years in the industry and he knows what sensitive documents are about and he insisted that he never tried to access or steal the files.

Tesla said that it instructed Khatilov to delete the files it could see in his Dropbox account. However, the company could not be sure that the engineer had not already transferred them someplace else.

Tesla said that as soon as Khatilov uploaded the stolen files to his Dropbox account, he could have shared or retransferred those files to anyone or to any other storage media such as an external thumb drive, a mobile device, another computer or another cloud-based storage system and they would have no way to trace it.

Tesla added that investigators had to interview Khatilov remotely because of COVID-19, which means that they were not able to ensure the complete deletion of the files from his devices. Tesla is now seeking a jury trial and payment for damages.

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Written by Sieeka Khan

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