Intel has unleashed its legal dogs upon one of its former hardware engineers, alleging the bloke tried to steal confidential chip blueprints to potentially pass on to Micron.
The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday in a US district court in Sacramento, California, is the latest twist in the tale of Intel and Micron's difficult partnership over 3D XPoint memory.
The legal complaint, aimed at former employee Doyle Rivers, alleges that having "secretly" accepted a position at Chipzilla's former bedfellow, Micron, Rivers had a go at taking confidential trade and personnel data with him as he left.
Intel alleged that a few days before leaving, "Rivers tried to access and copy a 'top secret' designated Intel file that Intel's electronic security system blocked from being copied."
Chipzilla said the document was related to what it was at pains to say is its "independent" work to productize the 3D XPoint tech into its Optane product line. In other words, blueprints secret to Intel. No one outside Intel, "including Micron" had been privy to such data, the complaint alleged.
Intel's security system stopped the file from escaping, but according to the complaint, that did not stop Rivers from allegedly hoovering up a selection of personnel files into a USB device plugged into his computer. The chipmaker also claimed that Rivers "aggressively" recruited his former colleagues to join him on his grand adventure to pastures new.
Intel's complaint went on to say that it then sent a letter to Rivers demanding the USB drive be returned. It alleged "Rivers never responded to Intel, nor did he return the device. Instead, he handed the USB device over to his new employer."
The lawsuit paperwork states that when the USB device was eventually given to a forensic investigator, it was "discovered" that the thing had been wiped. According to Intel, Rivers' lawyer (his own personal counsel – Micron is not representing him) said the engineer had uploaded some data from the USB device to his home computer, and later erased the gizmo.
Chipzilla demanded "a neutral forensic investigator" be allowed to take a look at Rivers' PC to check what was on there, and when exactly the USB sick was erased, and thus what may or may not have ended up in Micron's hands. The complaint states Chipzilla set a deadline of November 16 for Rivers to agree to this probing.
November 16 has been and gone with no response, and so the sueball launcher has been fired.
The Register has asked Intel and Micron for comment, though we stress the latter has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
An Intel mouthpiece told us:
"Intel has invested billions of dollars in the development of the intellectual property critical to its success in some of the most competitive industries in the world. We place great faith and trust in our current and former employees, but we have an obligation to protect our intellectual property and other proprietary information, and we will not hesitate to act to prevent their misappropriation." ®