Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
AMD Businesses The Courts

AMD Files Suit Against Former Employees For Alleged Document Theft 72

Posted by Soulskill
from the corporate-espionage-never-goes-out-of-style dept.
New submitter massivepanic writes "AMD has filed (and been granted) a request for immediate injunctive relief against multiple former employees that it alleges stole thousands of confidential documents. Named in the complaint (PDF) are Robert Feldstein, Manoo Desai, Nicholas Kociuk, and Richard Hagen. All four left AMD to work at Nvidia in the past year. The loss of Feldstein was particularly noteworthy, as he'd been the head of AMD's console initiatives for years. Feldstein was behind the work that landed AMD the Wii U, PS4, and Xbox Durango. He also worked closely with Microsoft during the Xbox 360s development cycle and brought that contract to ATI prior to AMD's acquisition."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

AMD Files Suit Against Former Employees For Alleged Document Theft

Comments Filter:
  • Whether for political or monetary reasons, for governments or companies, it's a very, very, very old game
    • by ls671 (1122017)

      Whether for political or monetary reasons...

      Aren't they the same utimately?

      • Haha, no. They can be somewhat divorced from each other, at times.

        Politics is usually a form of power (that is, the power of the palace, the power over small matters of law, a form of power over people), and money is money (an easily exchangeable resource for most other kinds of resources). People typically use politics to get money, or money to enter into politics. It's possible to be extremely wealthy, but not at all powerful; it's also possible to be extremely powerful, but utterly destitute. Rare, mind

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @02:27AM (#42600545)

      The thing is companies don't usually want to play that sort of game in situations like this because the chance to get sued is too high. They'll often help each other stop it. A dude tried to sell Coke's recipe to Pepsi, Pepsi called the FBI.

      Goes double here, since nVidia seems to have the superior technology as of late. AMD's GPUs aren't bad, but they aren't as high performance as nVidia's parts, and their drivers are not as polished. There just isn't any magic juju that nVidia would want to steal, particularly given the risks.

      My guess is this isn't an orchestrated defection. My guess is it is one of two things:

      1) Some morons figured that they could make it big doing this, stole the documents on their own, and went over to nVidia. Perhaps this is even a result of a tip from nVidia.

      2) This is a smokescreen on AMD's part, to try and keep these guys away from nVidia.

      I just don't find it likely that nVidia would buy them off to do this. Too much to lose, not enough to gain. While they might want the people, which is totally legal, the tech isn't worth the risk.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @03:49AM (#42600893)

        My guess is this isn't an orchestrated defection. My guess is it is one of two things:

        1) Some morons figured that they could make it big doing this, stole the documents on their own, and went over to nVidia. Perhaps this is even a result of a tip from nVidia.

        2) This is a smokescreen on AMD's part, to try and keep these guys away from nVidia.

        I just don't find it likely that nVidia would buy them off to do this. Too much to lose, not enough to gain. While they might want the people, which is totally legal, the tech isn't worth the risk.

        I've worked with 2 of those people in my past life. One thing I'll say for sure is that these are absolutely no morons we're talking about. #2 is clearly the case. I remember the HR legal debrief person during the exit interview is a complete dick, making threats even though you have done nothing wrong, with all the scare tactics BS, asking over and over again if you were going to be joining NVidia. They try whatever they could to find out who you were going to be working for, even though you have complete right not to disclose. The guy did mention at one point that "it's a free country and you can work anywhere in the world you want". Yeah, sure, do I really need you to tell me that, jerk!? They're panicking because these are key people with years of experience at a company joining a rival.

        Now I'm wondering if these people get fired by NVidia, maybe they should work as 3rd party contractors, consulting for NVidia just to mess with AMD.

        • Did you RTFA?

          "The named defendants ran Google searches for how to copy and delete large numbers of documents. Over 150,000 documents related to AMD desktop and laptop design were transferred before Kociuk turned in his resignation to AMD."

          All of what you said may be true, and AMD smokescreening is of course part of it, but DAMN, these guys are screwed.

      • by lightknight (213164) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @03:55AM (#42600913) Homepage

        Nonsense. AMD's GPUs tend to be high performance parts. Anyone looking at their performance can easily see this.

        Nvidia, though, does tend to have better drivers; AMD/ATI, better hardware.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          nvidia drivers better? AMD drivers have more features and less DRM.

        • by cheekyboy (598084)

          nvidia , oh so many bugs, or is it their hardware is buggy?

          Do I really have to buy a new card every 6 months, because new drivers expose more old hardware bugs or fail to be checked against older cards?

      • by dunkelfalke (91624) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @05:06AM (#42601149)

        I don't know about the high performance cards, but a HD7770 can run circles around the similarily priced GTX650 cards. Same story with HD7750 and GT640.

        • by Rockoon (1252108)

          I don't know about the high performance cards, but a HD7770 can run circles around the similarily priced GTX650 cards.

          Anyone that can run the HD 6850 will do so over either the GTX 650 or the HD 7770 because its only a few bucks more than either and beats both in performance.

          This is an awkward spot in the market for consumers because for the TDP budget that the GTX 650 and HD 7770 target you really cannot get much higher performance at any dollar cost. In that regard, these are top-shelf flagship products that just happen to cost only $100.

          The HD 7770 uses 32% more power than the GTX 650, so its not really a surprise

          • Well, let's take HD7750 into account. Almost as fast as GTX650, lower power consumption and there are several passive cooled HD7750 cards out there.

            • by Rockoon (1252108)

              Well, let's take HD7750 into account. Almost as fast as GTX650, lower power consumption and there are several passive cooled HD7750 cards out there.

              Yes, 55 watts vs 64 watts, and almost as fast. But the 650 is almost as fast as the 7770.

              Using the passmark GPU rating, and current NewEgg cheapest price:

              HD 7770 - 2133 - $115 - 80W TDP
              GTX 650 - 1809 - $110 - 64W TDP
              HD 7750 - 1577 - $90 - 55W TDP

              The passmark rating per watt for each respectively is 26.7, 28.3, 28.7
              The passmark rating per dollar for each respectively is 18.5, 16.4, 17.5

              All of these are basically right in line with each other, give or take a smidgen, and all have passively cooled

      • by hairyfeet (841228)

        Superior? Can I have what you're smoking? The ONLY place where Nvidia is even or a little ahead is in the uppermost "no matter what the cost make it so" tier which frankly isn't worth as much as you think, because the vast majority won't spend $500+ on a GPU so they can be the top of some leaderboard a good 99% of the planet doesn't even know exists.

        You see even in that top tier nvidia doesn't make as much because somebody at AMD had a brilliant idea when they bought ATI. They looked at the books and saw th

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Is it really defection, given that employees aren't citizens of corporations and don't give loyalty oaths?

  • Smoke screen (Score:5, Interesting)

    by war4peace (1628283) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @01:32AM (#42600255)

    Either those guys were amazingly stupid, in which case they deserve what's coming, or AMD is throwing a smoke screen at the crowd to stop those dudes from producing work for nVidia. Time shall tell.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The lawsuit is standard Silicon Valley FUD.

      When I was at ATI, we were being sued by SGI because too many ex-SGI employees had come to work at ATI (and nVidia, who was also being sued).

      I know dozens of ex-AMDers now at nVidia, Intel and Apple designing competing products to what they previously worked on.

      These lawsuits never amount to anything more than PR battles and big fees for lawyers.

  • by _Ludwig (86077) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @01:42AM (#42600325) Journal

    “The court has ordered that the named defendants [...] prepare their computers and storage devices for forensic evaluation, and refrain from taking any action that would obfuscate the location of said devices or the data contained therein.”

    Isn’t that a contradiction? That’s like CSI calling you up and telling you “We’re coming over next week, so make sure you prepare the crime scene for our arrival.”

    • That means, "clean off your desk and don't delete shit."

      • by cheekyboy (598084)

        Yeah but ill get really drunk, and accidentally, place the SSD drive in the microwave.

    • Not really (Score:5, Informative)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @02:21AM (#42600509)

      Since it is a civil case, they can't just go and send in the FBI to seize everything right away. So the court is formally telling these people: Your computers are evidence, you must treat them as such. Should the people fail to do that, and erase things, they could be charged with tampering with evidence.

      In civil cases (sometimes criminal too depending on the circumstances) you commonly see things like this, where the court will instruct someone that they are not to alter or throw away something because it is going to be evidence. Sometimes courts also will order additional retention.

      Like say your company doesn't keep e-mail. All employees have to use POP and the server doesn't store anything. That's legal, in most cases you don't have to keep e-mail for records, if you don't want. Then a case comes up that involves it. The court might order you to retain all e-mail, for a time, because of that, though it isn't your standard policy.

      Without this order, the employees would be free to wipe their computers if they wished. You and I can do a SATA secure erase on our disks at any time, for any reason, if we want and no legal trouble will come of that. It is our data, we do as we please (as an aside, you should do that on an SSD prior to reinstall, for performance reasons). These people cannot, temporarily, or they could get in trouble, because the court considers that what they have on their computers may be evidence and this order is why they cannot.

    • by citizenr (871508)

      Forensics can easily tell if the Drive is fresh and just made to look old. They can also tell if that drive is from a work computer you used daily, or that it was just a second computer you used once a week.

      • what if you have an SSD ?

        And everything cloud synced, to a server out of USA.

        Or even better, use 8gig of DRAM for a ram disk.

        Man, harddrives? who are you, a 1990s museum director?

        Any one with access to those juicy docs and getting paid super well, can afford a truecrypt 512GIG SSD pocket drive.

        But to really hide it, just use Zune thats brown, forensics will just ignore it.

        Man, its so easy to hide/store 32gig memory cards any where

    • That’s like CSI calling you up and telling you “We’re coming over next week, so make sure you prepare the crime scene for our arrival.”

      If AMD is anything like Intel. It will have former spooks on staff. And it will have the former employees in question already under 24 hour surveillance and on a weekly trash pick up/combing snooping expedition.

      Those former employees in question better not even erase their porn folders (fetish porn, or otherwise). If they try to erase anything now, after having received this order, things could get a lot worse for them. The same goes for their spouse and kids. Everybody in those households better bend over

  • Given AMD/ATI's reputation and my own experience, no wonder. I would have left AMD/ATI too. Much about marketing and less on performance. nVidia is my personal preference for just that reason. I am only writing this because of a recent experience with HP/AMD driver issues on a Windows 8 install and non-compliant, non-working OpenGL implemetation. Inexcusable in my humble opinion. This is NOT a gaming issue, rather a high performance application issue and this is not the first time. AMD, GYST (yes, explative
    • by tyrione (134248)

      Given AMD/ATI's reputation and my own experience, no wonder. I would have left AMD/ATI too. Much about marketing and less on performance. nVidia is my personal preference for just that reason. I am only writing this because of a recent experience with HP/AMD driver issues on a Windows 8 install and non-compliant, non-working OpenGL implemetation. Inexcusable in my humble opinion. This is NOT a gaming issue, rather a high performance application issue and this is not the first time. AMD, GYST (yes, explatives involved)! Screams of SCO type litigation...

      Take some valium. Microsoft pushes DirectX and you're whining about Win 8 OpenGL performance being the sole responsibility of AMD? Gawd how long must people swing from the Gorilla's nutsack to realize Microsoft are douche bags?

      • by U8MyData (1281010)
        I am not swinging at nuts and it isn't a simple issue with performance, rather working! It has been and continues to be a question of whether or not I can have any confidence in their products, period.
    • This event has "AMD sucks at management" written all over it. Probably treated these vital employees like crap. AMD has shown other signs of poor leadership, stumbling in the x86 CPU market. They may even be in a death spiral. While I like seeing bad management get what they deserve, I don't like where this looks to be going. If AMD/ATI dies, that leaves Nvidia as the only player in the high end consumer graphics market. I'm not much consoled by Intel's presence. If Intel improves, it doesn't help th

  • by seeker_1us (1203072) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @02:12PM (#42606297)
    I remember a story from a few years back when a guy from Intel went to work for AMD but downloaded tons of secret documents before leaving Intel. He was arrested on criminal charges, if I remember correctly. So why only a lawsuit here?
  • by tlambert (566799) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @05:17PM (#42608785)

    AMD's real problem, and their solution:

    AMD's real problem is that when these people left AMD, they took their reputation and goodwill with them to another company.

    This reputation and goodwill was an intangible asset on loan to, but not owned by, AMD which they borrowed upon by virtue of being these persons employer. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goodwill_(accounting) [wikipedia.org] and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reputation [wikipedia.org]

    When these people left, they reduced AMD's outstanding goodwill and reputation. This loss was irrecoverable, short of hiring these people back -- and the people in question seemed rather fed up with working for AMD, so that wasn't going to happen.

    One legal tactic to apply in this case is to devalue the goodwill and reputation of the former employees, such that AMD's loss did not become a competitors gain (thus doubling the effective loss to AMD). As a secondary effect, it will make it appear that the goodwill and reputation were AMD's, rather than the employees, in the first place. This is a pretty common tactic, and it really doesn't matter to AMD if the end result is paying a settlement to the former employees, particularly if they can drag it out to the point that the damage is irreparable and/or the costs to the party or parties receiving the settlement is comparable to the amount of the settlement.

    Another legal tactic that could be applied would be to pay the departing employee some severance amount, usually cash, but potentially including continued health benefits, option or RSU vesting (in which case the cash severance could include additional option or RSU grants), etc.. This is commonly called "pay-for-no-play". This is pretty common, except in jurisdictions such as California, where non-compete clauses have been legislatively held invalid as a form of restraint of trade.

    To get around the non compete limitation (if it's really a critical employee) in California, most pay-for-no-play severance agreements include a penalty and/or interest clause which makes violating them economically prohibitive. This can fail if a new employer is willing to "buy out" the penalty from the employee as part of a "hiring bonus". If an employee goes that route, they need to make sure they don't get stuck with paying back the hiring bonus, as a couple of colluding companies could easily strip both the severance and the hiring bonus, while leaving the other severance terms in effect.

    Typically, this second doesn't come up very often, since it requires the employee stating an intent to leave without having already accepted a competitors offer (having accepted the offer, it is unlikely they will back out of the deal), making pay-for-no-play not an option for the employer they are departing. The current climate of the departing executive giving two weeks notice, then being frog-marched out the door by security without being permitted to serve their final two weeks makes it costly to the departing employee to give notice without having something already lined up. Worse, if there is nothing apriori lined up, it's frequent that networking between executives as a result of routine inquiries during the former employees job hunting process could poison the well. Such networking doesn't happen when the employee is approached or looking while employed, for fear of the employee as a candidate deciding to stay at their current position.

    Most employees below an executive level never have to worry about this kind of thing involving them.

    There have been a number of cases of prominent Open Source developers, where their reputation and goodwill is not legally controllable after their departure, have left a company. These are generally either truly amicable partings, or there is "pay-for-nice" involved, where something similar to the severance payment tactic is used in exchange for the Open Source developer agreeing to not attack the former employers rep

Profanity is the one language all programmers know best.

Working...