Nvidia Sued After Engineer Shows Trade Secrets On Video Call

A lawsuit has revealed the perils for people not paying attention to their immediate surroundings when on a video conference call.

Bloomberg reported last week that GPU powerhouse Nvidia has been hit with a lawsuit filed in California, after one of its engineers, Mohammad Moniruzzaman, accidentally shared data with his former employer whilst on a video conference call.

According to the lawsuit from automotive tech company Valeo, Moniruzzaman accidentally revealed the source code he had allegedly stolen from his former employer, namely Valeo, whilst he was on a Microsoft Teams call with that same company.

You couldn’t make it up

This alleged theft was came to light in March 2022, when employees from both Nvidia and Valeo were on a video call together, as both parties were working on a joint parking assistance project for an unnamed automotive parts maker.

According to the lawsuit, Nvidia had won the contract to develop software on the project, while Valeo was providing ultrasonic sensor hardware.

“On March 8, 2022, one of these videoconference meetings was scheduled,” the lawsuit alleges. “Mr. Moniruzzaman, now employed by Nvidia, attended the videoconference call… and shared his computer screen during the call. When he minimised the PowerPoint presentation he had been sharing, however, he revealed one of Valeo’s verbatim source code files open on his computer. So brazen was Mr. Moniruzzaman’s theft, the file path on his screen still read ‘ValeoDocs.’ Valeo participants on the videoconference call immediately recognised the source code and took a screenshot before Mr. Moniruzzaman was alerted of his error. By then it was too late to cover his tracks.”

The lawsuit also alleges that “by using Valeo’s stolen trade secrets (the former employee has been criminally convicted and a penalty order has issued for his theft), Nvidia has saved millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, of dollars in development costs, and generated profits it did not properly earn and to which it is not entitled.”

Bloomberg meanwhile reported that Moniruzzaman had been convicted in September this year of infringing Valeo’s business secrets in Germany, and had been fined €14,400 (£12,490).

According to the lawsuit German police had “discovered Valeo documentation and hardware pinned on the walls of Mr. Moniruzzaman’s home office” when they raided his home as part of a criminal investigation, and that Valeo’s software and documents were found on his Nvidia computer when it was seized by investigators.

Moniruzzaman allegedly admitted to stealing Valeo’s software when questioned by German police, the lawsuit states.

Nvidia response

Meanwhile the Verge reported that a spokesperson for Nvidia did not immediately respond to it’s request for comment,

But in a letter sent to Valeo’s attorneys, a law firm representing Nvidia claimed the company “has no interest in Valeo’s code or its alleged trade secrets and has taken prompt concrete steps to protect your client’s asserted rights.”

Moniruzzaman reportedly told Nvidia that the source code was only stored locally on his laptop and not shared with other Nvidia employees.

Valeo alleged in the lawsuit that Moniruzzaman “downloaded without authorisation the entirety of Valeo’s advanced parking and driving assistance systems source code” in early 2021, along with “scores of Valeo Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, PDF files, and Excel spreadsheets explaining various aspects of the technology” before he left Valeo to join Nvidia in August 2021.

And despite the fact that Nvidia claims it has no interest in using the stolen code, Valeo is alleging that its competitor has still benefited from it.

It said that if the code was merged into Nvidia’s database after “extensive edits and feedback loops by other employees,” then Valeo says it’s “unrealistic” to think it could ever be fully removed.

Nvidia has been developing its automotive capabilities for many years now, signing deals with a number of firms for its Nvidia Drive autonomous driving system.

As a result of this, Valeo is reportedly seeking damages and an injunction to stop Nvidia and its employees from using or sharing its trade secrets.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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