Ex-Intel engineer accused of attempted theft of 3D XPoint secrets

Lawsuit alleges the engineer planned to share data with Micron

Image of Intel Optane data centre

Intel has filed a lawsuit against a former employee it accuses of attempting to steal intellectual property about its 3D XPoint technology to pass on to rival Micron. 

The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday in a US district court in Sacramento, California, alleges that former employee Doyle Rivers, secretly accepted a job at Micron and "as he prepared to leave Intel for that job, engaged in a covert and calculated effort to collect Intel's confidential, proprietary, and trade secret technical and personnel information".

"A few days before he left Intel, Rivers tried to access and copy a top secret' designated Intel file that Intel's electronic security system blocked from being copied," the lawsuit stated.

"The top secret' Intel file that Rivers attempted to download related to Intel's independent, highly confidential work to productize 3D XPoint into its Optane line of products and was not something that was shared with anyone outside Intel, including anyone at Micron."

The lawsuit said that Intel and Micron were partners in developing the technology until recently.

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The suit alleges that Rivers plugged a USB storage device into his Intel computer for more than an hour, from 10:40 p.m. until 11:40 p.m.

"During that time, Rivers accessed a highly sensitive compilation of Intel personnel information and copied that information to the USB device."

Intel said it had sent a letter to Rivers demanding the return of the USB stick but claimed that: "Rivers never responded to Intel, nor did he return the device. Instead, he handed the USB device over to his new employer."

Intel finally managed to retrieve the USB device, but a forensic investigator found the device had been wiped.

"Intel has invested billions of dollars in the development of the intellectual property critical to its success in some of the most competitive industries in the world," said Intel in a statement.

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According to a report by US tech publication Government Technology, Micron said it was aware of the lawsuit but is not the target of the allegations.

"Micron is not a party to the complaint, and Intel has not alleged any unlawful conduct by Micron," the statement read. "Micron's policies and team member training help ensure that the intellectual property of others is respected and safeguarded."

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