Tesla says four former workers forwarded confidential documents from their work email accounts to personal addresses.
- Tesla is accusing four former employees who now work for the robo-taxi startup Zoox of stealing confidential information.
- The company alleges in a new lawsuit that the documents helped Zoox "leapfrog" years of work on self-driving cars.
- More than 100 former Tesla employees now work for Zoox, which recently installed a new CEO.
In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, Tesla said the theft helped Zoox "leapfrog past years of work needed to develop and run its own warehousing, logistics, and inventory control operations."
Zoox did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Tesla says the employees — Craig Emigh, Christian Dement, Sydney Cooper, and Scott Turner — violated terms of their employment contracts with the electric-car maker by forwarding confidential information from work email accounts to personal addresses and hiring former coworkers from Tesla.
"As a condition of their employment, all of the Individual Defendants agreed to maintain the confidentiality of Tesla's information and to avoid poaching Tesla's employees within one year of their departure," the lawsuit says.
According to court documents, Turner forwarded internal inventory documents and other company schematics from his Tesla email address to a personal address with the note "you sly dog" about one month before resigning. On the same day, Tesla alleges, he sent more confidential documents with the note: "Ooooh man... so much time and effort. Loved every second of it though."
Dement, a former Tesla warehouse supervisor, also forwarded documents to his personal email address, Tesla claims, with the subject line "good stuff."
Tesla suggested it learned about the activity because of a slipup by Emigh.
"After Defendant Emigh joined Zoox, he mistakenly sent an email to Cooper's old Tesla email address, attaching a modified version of a Tesla proprietary document, freshly-emblazoned with the Zoox logo, yet still bearing the layout, design, and other vestiges of the Tesla version — showing, without doubt, that the Defendants are actively using the Tesla information they stole," Tesla said in the suit.
The four accused employees have not responded to requests for comment from Business Insider.
Tesla has sued former employees before. CEO Elon Musk in 2018 accused Martin Tripp, a self-identified whistleblower, of sabotaging the company by leaking confidential information to Business Insider. Tripp maintains he never hacked the information and shared it only out of concern for public safety.
More than 100 former Tesla employees now work for the Foster City, California-based Zoox, according to LinkedIn. Now four years old, Zoox recently installed the Intel veteran Aicha Evans as CEO after ousting its founder in August. The company, now worth $3.2 billion, has raised $790 million in venture capital to date.
"The theft here was blatant and intentional," Tesla said in the filing. "In the process, they misappropriated Tesla's trade secrets, violated their agreements with Tesla, and breached their duties of loyalty, all with the knowledge and support of Zoox."