Apple accuses former employee of leaking trade secrets to the press

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Apple Glass concept from the Hacker 34.
VR glasses is one of the secret projects that a former Apple employee might have leaked to the press.
Photo: the Hacker 34

Apple filed a lawsuit against Simon Lancaster on Thursday, accusing the former employee of leaking company secrets to the media.

He worked at Apple as a materials engineer for over 11 years, helping to design upcoming products. That gave him access to information not publicly available. Apple alleges he traded that info for personal gain.

Apple’s lawsuit never names any of the secret products that Lancaster supposedly leaked details about. It also does not name the person who received the information, nor what publication they work for. Everything is kept vague. “The trade secrets Lancaster stole and sent to the Correspondent for publication included details of unreleased Apple hardware products, unannounced feature changes to existing hardware products, and future product announcements,” Apple’s lawyers say the suit.

Lancaster was a senior employee, and Apple says he used that to access meetings and documents, even ones not part of his job. He allegedly shared these with the unnamed Correspondent, even going so far as to hunt of specific information the journalist requested.

In return, he supposedly got press exposure for startups that he invested in. Apple does not allege he was directly paid for leaking secrets.

In 2019, Lancaster posted on LinkedIn an article on why he left Apple after more than a decade. He says he got the “startup itch.” and began investing in companies that were still early in the process of designing new products. He also joined Arris as Head of Consumer Products.

How Apple says it’s harmed by leaked secrets

Some people dismiss leaks as another form of advertising. Not Apple. In the lawsuit, the company said, “The deceitful and indefensible release of these product details enabled by Lancaster’s misappropriation has undermined the morale of the teams that worked on the products and features in question.”

More tangibly, Apple pointed out, “Lancaster’s misappropriation also disadvantages Apple with respect to its competitors. With access to valuable Apple information, Apple’s competitors can anticipate Apple’s future course of action.”

Apple is requesting that Lancaster be forced to pay for the damage he allegedly caused the company, as well as punitive damages. And all Apple’s legal fees.

The full text of Apple v. Simon Lancaster is available from Scribd.