US technology conglomerate Cisco is suing three ex-employees for trade secret misappropriation.
In a complaint filed yesterday, November 18 at the US District Court for the Northern District of California, Cisco said two former engineers and a sales director had taken product designs, client lists and other confidential information to an unidentified competitor.
Cisco claimed it has uncovered evidence that two high-level engineers, Wilson Chung and James He, downloaded thousands of Cisco’s proprietary documents relating to the design, manufacture and pricing of its unreleased products.
It also claimed that one of its former sales directors, Jedd Williams, used Cisco’s trade secrets to develop a project, which he then proposed to the competitor.
Chung allegedly spent weeks exfiltrating Cisco’s confidential materials to hard drives, his personal email, cloud storage and his new employer’s internal intranet.
According to the complaint, Chung—who had been employed at Cisco since 2007—claimed his personal and work laptops were stolen in November 2018. As a result, the company provided him with a new Lenovo ThinkPad and Apple MacBook.
Before leaving to work at the competitor in February 2019, Chung downloaded over 3000 Cisco files and uploaded files from the MacBook to his personal iCloud account, the filing said.
“These documents are Cisco confidential materials and relate to, among other things, Cisco’s contributions to 5G technology, and design specifications of a pre-release video conferencing display prototype,” Cisco said.
Cisco said that when confronted with evidence of his misappropriation, Chung destroyed evidence to conceal his actions.
“For example, after receiving notice of the trade secret theft allegations, he permanently deleted iCloud backups and Cisco materials from the backup,” Cisco said.
Chung also performed internet searches such as “how to permanently delete icloud backup,” and “how to see what is [sic] the thumb drive without detection”, the filing said.
Similarly, He is also accused of copying thousands of files to an external hard drive and “regularly took photographs of Cisco’s documents on his iPhone Max” before leaving to join the competitor.
On May 13, 2019, He took a photograph of a financial presentation containing Cisco’s Q3 financial highlights, largest deals, and comparative revenue by category, the filing said.
The former managing director of global collaboration sales at Cisco, Williams, allegedly stole trade secrets relating to Cisco’s sales forecasts and business development opportunities, including spending commitments.
Williams allegedly made a backup of his Cisco laptop on a home server these trade secrets remained on that server after leaving Cisco, the filing said.
Cisco said it has also uncovered evidence suggesting that Williams was offered employment at the unidentified competitor after proposing a go-to-market strategy he dubbed “Project X,” which had been developed and refined at Cisco using the conglomerate’s confidential information.
“Even though he was directly asked about his plans after leaving Cisco, Williams claimed that he was going to work at his church and focus on personal issues.
“In light of these circumstances and to Williams with his family, Cisco offered him two months sales pay, in addition to a lump sum payment to cover two months health care premiums. Mr Williams accepted this offer,” Cisco claimed.
Cisco has asked the court for an order prohibiting the use of its trade secrets and for all confidential information to be returned.