Automotive tech company Valeo Schalter und Sensoren is suing Nvidia for stealing trade secrets (via SiliconValley.com). Nvidia hired former Valeo employee Mohammad Moniruzzaman in 2021, and before leaving Valeo, he copied large numbers of files, including source code for an AI-assisted parking application and other confidential documents. The alleged perpetrator accidentally showed the stolen files during a video chat, which others promptly documented with screenshots. Now that the employee has been criminally convicted, Valeo is after Nvidia.
The theft was discovered when Moniruzzaman was on a collaborative conference call with Nvidia and Valeo employees. While on the call, Moniruzzaman gave a presentation and shared his screen so participants could follow along. After the presentation was done, he didn’t stop sharing his screen, which was likely unintentional. Upon minimizing the presentation window, he mistakenly revealed a window that contained the source code to Valeo’s software and the phrase “ValeoDocs.”
When his former coworkers saw the source code, they immediately recognized it and screenshotted it as evidence. Valeo then investigated Moniruzzaman’s actions before he left the company and discovered that he had copied the source code and other files. In 2022, Germany began a criminal investigation of Moniruzzaman, ending in his conviction in September.
While you may not have heard of Valeo, it’s actually a 100-year-old company based in Paris, and it’s been in the high-tech automotive business for a couple of decades. Valeo and Nvidia were contracted by an unnamed car manufacturer to develop parking-assistance software.
In its lawsuit, Valeo describes itself as an established company in the automotive industry while Nvidia is merely “a recent entrant to the automotive industry” with a “total lack of experience” in making parking-assistance technology. What Valeo implies is pretty clear: Nvidia is a newcomer to the car industry, so how is it able to make such cutting-edge software?
Valeo argues that now-convicted Moniruzzaman shared the company’s trade secrets with Nvidia. These secrets include source code, spreadsheets, and other documents critical to understanding Valeo’s parking assistance tech.
Nvidia hasn’t commented on the lawsuit, but its lawyers sent a letter to Valeo in 2022 explaining that the company had no idea Moniruzzaman had stolen anything confidential until he was already under investigation. The letter also stated that Nvidia “has no interest in Valeo’s code” and that it has “cooperated fully.”
It wouldn’t be the first time Nvidia has been sued for illegally using intellectual property. Nvidia was sued in 2019 for infringing on Xerpi Corp’s semiconductor patents. However, the court case is still ongoing, so Nvidia isn’t a repeat offender, at least not yet.