German Automotive Supplier Sues Nvidia Over Alleged Trade Secrets Theft

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Valeo Schalt und Sensoren GmbH, a German automotive parts supplier, has brought a legal action against the semiconductor company Nvidia. The lawsuit stems from allegations that Nvidia indirectly benefited from Valeo's trade secrets through Mohammad M., a former Valeo employee who later took a position with Nvidia. 

The breach was accidentally exposed during a Microsoft Teams video conference on March 8, 2022, where teams from Valeo and Nvidia were discussing a collaborative parking assistance project, the Verge reports.

The project involved Nvidia contributing software while Valeo was responsible for the ultrasonic sensor hardware. In the course of the meeting, Mohammad M. mistakenly revealed Valeo's proprietary source code by not terminating the screen sharing after minimizing his presentation, which was noticed by Valeo's attending personnel who captured screenshots of the incident.

Further investigation, including a police search of Mohammad M.'s residence, uncovered additional documents and hardware from Valeo, indicating potential misuse of Valeo's proprietary information at Nvidia. The allegations from Valeo assert that prior to his resignation, Mohammad M. downloaded comprehensive source code pertaining to Valeo's parking and driver assistance technology, along with various documents related to these technologies.

Despite Nvidia's assertion of disinterest in Valeo's confidential materials and Mohammad M.'s claim that the source code remained confined to his personal laptop, Valeo is pursuing damages. The company contends that Nvidia could have circumvented substantial development expenditures by leveraging the trade secrets in question. In connection with these events, a Stuttgart court has already levied a fine of 14,400 euros against Mohammad M. in September for his role in the breach.

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