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Apple sues RISC-V startup Rivos for theft of trade secrets

Business news |
By Peter Clarke


Apple has filed a law suit against US high-performance RISC-V processor startup Rivos  and two individuals alleging theft of trade secrets and breach of contract.

Rivos is a processor developer with impressive credentials in terms of its founding team and early recruitment.

The company was founded in May 2021 by Puneet Kumar (CEO) and Mark Hayter (chief scientific officer), two executives who have been with multiple previous processor design startups sold to Apple and Google. Rivos then hired dozens of Apple engineers in a “coordinated campaign” in June 2021 Apple states. Some of those employees took proprietary and secret information about Apple system-on-chip designs including the M1 laptop and A15 mobile phone processors, Apple alleges.

Two former Apple engineers who joined Rivos are named as defendants in the suit. These are Shih-Chieh Wen otherwise known as Ricky Wen and Bhasi Kaithamana. Kaithamana is the CPU implementation lead engineer at Rivos, according to his Linkedin entry. He joined Rivos in August 2021 after eight years at Apple where he rose to the position of senior engineering manager.

Apple claims that after accepting jobs at Rivos some employees took gigabytes of sensitive SoC specifications and design files during their last days of employment with Apple.

Apple has a history of pursuing former employees. In 2019 Apple pursued Gerard Williams III, CEO of Nuvia Inc. (Santa Clara, Calif.) who had been Apple’s chief CPU architect for nearly a decade before leaving Apple and forming Nuvia.

Nuvia raised raised $240 million in its Series B round of financing in 2020 and was sold to Qualcomm in 2021 for $1.4 billion. It was observed that this might give Williams support in his legal tussle with Apple.

www.apple.com; www.rivosinc.com

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