Intel Slaps Former Employee With Lawsuit Alleging Xeon Trade Secret Theft For Microsoft Leverage

Intel Xeon Processor
Intel is not real happy with one of its former employees, Dr. Varun Gupta, who spent nearly a decade at the chip maker as its product marketing engineer before leaving in January of last year. In a recently filed lawsuit, Intel alleges Dr. Gupta stole "highly confidential, proprietary, and trade secret information" before his "voluntary resignation and departure from Intel," and attempted to use that information to negotiate more favorable terms for Xeon hardware in his new position at Microsoft.

Following his departure from Intel, Dr. Gupta landed a gig at Microsoft, where he currently serves as a principal for strategic planning in the company's cloud and artificial intelligence department. It is in that role that the lawsuit alleges Dr. Gupta leveraged confidential information in "negotiations against Intel," and furthermore "lied to Intel in course of Intel's attempts to locate, recover, and protect" its trade secrets."

According to the lawsuit, Dr. Gupta had direct access to confidential documents outlining Intel's pricing structure and strategies, while employed there. Part of the lawsuit contends that the information he had access to is "commercially sensitive," and disclosing it "would cause signficant harm to Intel."

"If Intel’s competitors were to gain access to this information, they could use it to compete unfairly with Intel in the definition, manufacture, marketing, and pricing of comparable products; similarly, Intel’s customers could use it to gain an unfair advantage over Intel in negotiations concerning product specifications and pricing," Intel states in its lawsuit (PDF).

And that is essentially what happened, according to the lawsuit. It alleges Dr. Gupta copied 3,900 documents from his Intel-issued PC on his last day, and just days after having affirmed in writing that he did not have possession of confidential information and trade secrets. The lawsuit says he copied the sensitive documents to a Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex USB drive, and that Intel even knows the serial number of the drive.

"In his new role at Microsoft, Gupta used the confidential information and trade secrets he misappropriated from Intel, deploying that information in head-to-head negotiations with Intel concerning customized product design and pricing for significant volumes of Xeon processors," the lawsuit adds.

Incidentally, the lawsuit says Microsoft assisted Intel in discovering "the full breadth of Gupta's misappropriations," in part through forensic analysis. This is how Intel was able to obtain the serial number of the flash drive Dr. Gupta is accused of storing thousands of Intel documents on.

Intel also believes Dr. Gupta transferred documents to a second storage device, a Western Digital My Passport USB drive. Though Dr. Gupta claims to have thrown away the drive, according to the lawsuit, Intel is not convinced.

The lawsuit claims Intel has suffered damages in excess of $75,000 over the ordeal.