Tesla Accuses Electric Vehicle Rival Rivian of Stealing Trade Secrets

A lawsuit filed by Elon Musk's electric car firm Tesla has accused startup Rivian Automotive of poaching employees and stealing trade secrets.

In the complaint, filed in a state court in San Jose, California, Tesla alleges that sensitive proprietary information was taken to Rivian by as many as six former workers who left to work there. That's according to Bloomberg, which first reported on the legal case today.

Tesla surprised analysts on Wednesday by posting its fourth profitable quarter in a row, despite what it called "unprecedented times" linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the lawsuit, Musk's firm made a series of employee-related allegations against Rivian, which is offering its own line of electric trucks, dubbed "adventure vehicles," such as the R1T and R1S. It currently lists eight separate office locations, including San Jose.

"Misappropriating Tesla's competitively useful confidential information when leaving Tesla for a new employer is obviously wrong and risky," the Tesla complaint read, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg. "One would engage in that behavior only for an important benefit—to use it to serve the competitive interests of a new employer."

In the filing, Tesla notes that Rivian has now hired 178 former Tesla staffers, describing itself as Rivian's "number one target from which to acquire information."

In its official statements so far, Rivian has denied the accusations, saying the claims in the suit are "counter to Rivian's culture, ethos and corporate policies."

The company said it asks all new employees to confirm they will not "introduce former employers' intellectual property into Rivian systems."

Amid the ongoing coronavirus health crisis, Tesla, and Musk by extension, have enjoyed a strong financial performance—with its stock price surging in recent weeks.

The Q2 2020 financial report yesterday asserted that the business had shown "strong resilience," with the CEO saying in a call with analysts there were "so many challenges too numerous to name" during a period challenging every carmaker.

"Although the automotive industry was down about 30 percent year-over-year in the first half of the year, we managed to grow deliveries in the first half of the year. Despite massive industry decline, we actually went up," Musk said.

The Tesla boss also confirmed the next vehicle factory will be built in Texas, spanning about 2,000 acres and located roughly 15 minutes from downtown Austin.

"It's also where we will be doing Cybertruck there, the Tesla semi, and we will be doing Model 3 and Y for the eastern-half of North America," he said, referencing the firm's new electric pickup truck that is widely expected to enter production late next year.

A Tesla logo is pictured during the Brussels Motor Show on January 9, 2020 in Brussels. KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty