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Tesla subpoenas Apple, Facebook in trade secret lawsuit

by Justin King

The company is apparently attempting to determine where its proprietary data may have been sent after being allegedly downloaded by a disgruntled worker.

Tesla has been permitted to serve a list of emergency subpoenas to various tech companies as it moves forward with a lawsuit against former employee Martin Tripp, accused of stealing data from the company's manufacturing operating system.

US Magistrate Judge Valeria P. Cooke has allowed subpoenas to be served to Microsoft, Google, Apple, Dropbox and Facebook, among other firms that provide communication and data transfer services.

The automaker is seeking "critical evidence" that its attorneys argue will be "forever lost" if data is not quickly secured. The company suggests Tripp may be using the services "to divulge Tesla's confidential and proprietary information."

The filings suggest Tesla may not yet know which third parties have received the allegedly stolen data, though Elon Musk has apparently accused Tripp of sabotage. The executive also hinted that other employees may be involved in the alleged scheme.

Tripp has been identified as the source of information for several media reports claiming Tesla had been using punctured batteries in the Model 3. He also claimed the company was generating excessive scrap material as it attempted to ramp up production volume.

The former Nevada Gigafactory worker apparently admitted to downloading data from Tesla's system, though he claims to be a whistleblower attempting to expose a potential defect in vehicles that were distributed to customers.

"When I found out about the 732 potentially punctured cells that are in cars driving around right now, that's when I became so concerned about public safety and felt I had to do something," he told Ars Technica. "I realized there was a possibility of getting caught, but the impact of DEATH to any consumer was too critical to not take action."

Tesla suggests Tripp began stealing data after he was passed over for a promotion. He was later reassigned and described as "disruptive and combative" with colleagues. After the lawsuit was filed, Tesla stepped up security at its Nevada factory and contacted police after Tripp allegedly told a friend he was going to "shoot the place up."