NVIDIA's Screensharing Blunder Reveals Alleged Trade Secret Theft

NVIDIA faces legal action over alleged theft of Valeo's tech secrets, raising concerns about fair competition in the autonomous vehicle sector.

By Abhishek Chandel
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NVIDIA's Screensharing Blunder Reveals Alleged Trade Secret Theft

NVIDIA's Screensharing Blunder Reveals Alleged Trade Secret Theft

A video conference between automotive tech companies NVIDIA and Valeo took an unexpected turn last year when proprietary source code belonging to Valeo appeared on an NVIDIA engineer's screen. This blunder led Valeo to uncover an alleged trade secret theft scheme by its former employee, resulting in an ongoing lawsuit against NVIDIA seeking damages.

Employee Stole Valeo Secrets Before Joining NVIDIA

Employee Stole Valeo Secrets Before Joining NVIDIA

Moniruzzaman previously worked for French firm Valeo for 5 years on the development of its advanced parking and driving assistance technology. According to Valeo's complaint, as one of their key engineers with full access to proprietary source code, hardware designs, and other confidential information, Moniruzzaman realized his inside knowledge would make him highly valuable to competitors within the autonomous vehicle industry.

Just months before news broke in 2021 that Valeo had lost a major software contract for driver-assistance tech to NVIDIA, Moniruzzaman allegedly began stealing thousands of sensitive files and documents from Valeo's systems using his still active login credentials. This included over 6GB of source code central to Valeo's parking assistance and self-driving solutions.

Moniruzzaman then left Valeo for a senior engineering role at NVIDIA, downloading the stolen IP right before his departure. Once at NVIDIA, he worked on the exact same parking assistance technology project he helped develop at Valeo. German police later raided his home office and found Valeo hardware and pinned-up documentation, which Moniruzzaman admitted to taking. Last September, a German court convicted Moniruzzaman of infringing business secrets and fined him €14,400 ($15,750), according to Bloomberg.

Despite NVIDIA lawyer's claims that the company has no interest in using Valeo's stolen secrets, Valeo alleges in its lawsuit that NVIDIA has already substantially benefitted by advancing its competing parking assistance software using their misappropriated source code and designs.

With the autonomous vehicle market projected to reach $500 billion by 2030, even a modest headstart from using stolen IP could equate to tens or hundreds of millions in undeserved profits, not to mention saving countless hours of expensive engineering work. To put it in context, Google's self-driving unit Waymo sought $1.8 billion in damages from Uber over stolen trade secrets, before settling for $245 million in 2018.

The unfolding legal battle promises major implications for how tech giants protect their IP as talent wars heat up in the race to dominate next-generation vehicles. For NVIDIA, a routine screensharing session could end up costing the company dearly if the alleged theft has indeed put their autonomous driving efforts on an unfair fast track.

(Source: Engadget)

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