A former Tesla engineer accused of stealing trade secrets has agreed to pay the electric car maker to settle the dispute.
Tesla last May sued Alex Yatskov, claiming he had taken proprietary information from work devices and accounts, accessing it via his personal devices and putting confidential details about a Tesla supercomputer — nicknamed Dojo and used for projects such as autonomous driving — onto his personal computer.
The company, led by CEO Elon Musk, asked Yatskov to bring in his personal devices for “forensic imaging,” and although he handed over his phone and his personal laptop, the laptop was a “dummy” device, not the one he had used to take the confidential data, the lawsuit alleged.
Yatskov, who resigned from Tesla the month it sued him, fired back with a June filing in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. He likened Tesla’s “tale of deception and espionage” to a spy novel by John le Carré” that required “so many illogical leaps that the story is not plausible.” Tesla’s lawsuit, Yatskov claimed in the filing, had wrecked his reputation.
In August, Judge James Donato ordered the case into arbitration. In a February court order denying Yatskov’s bid to have Tesla pay $121,000 of his court fees, Donato said he had ordered the arbitration “based on the employment agreement between the parties.”
On Wednesday, lawyers for Tesla and Yatskov announced in a court filing they had reached a settlement. Neither side admitted wrongdoing. “A forensic examination of Dr. Yatskov’s personal laptop confirmed the presence of Tesla confidential information,” according to the filing. “Dr. Yatskov admits that during his employment at Tesla he transferred Tesla confidential information onto his personal laptop.
“Dr. Yatskov, however, maintains that he had done so only for Tesla work purposes and that he sought to delete files containing Tesla information once the work was completed.”
The agreement, which needs a judge’s approval, would resolve all claims against Yatskov by Tesla, which in December 2021 moved its headquarters from Palo Alto to Austin and operates a major car factory in Fremont. The amount Yatskov is to pay was not disclosed.