Apple sues former employee for allegedly leaking to media

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 12
The former materials lead at Apple has been sued by the company, with the complaint addressing alleged misappropriation of trade secrets that were then sold to an unnamed publication in exchange for favorable coverage of a startup.

Lancaster revealed trade secrets about unreleased Apple products
Lancaster revealed trade secrets about unreleased Apple products


The leaks and rumors industry built around Apple can be a dangerous one. Simon Lancaster, former materials lead at Apple, has been accused of accessing data outside of his job's scope then selling it to a media outlet.

The accusation

A court document made public on Thursday describes the accusation.
Despite over a decade of employment at Apple, Lancaster abused his position and trust within the company to systematically disseminate Apple's sensitive trade secret information in an effort to obtain personal benefits. He used his seniority to gain access to internal meetings and documents outside the scope of his job's responsibilities containing Apple's trade secrets, and he provided these trade secrets to his outside media correspondent.
Apple claims that the media venue published the stolen trade secrets in assorted articles, citing a "source" at Apple. The suit also alleges that Lancaster traded the information for benefits, including positive coverage of his new company.

After his departure from Apple, his role with the correspondent deepened according to the accusation. Apple investigated the Apple-issued devices used by Lancaster to determine his continued connection with the correspondent, and discovered that he took specific steps to obtain additional Apple trade secrets.

Lancaster had sent the correspondent specific details upon request, sometimes using Apple-issued devices and other times in person. The trade secrets divulged included product plans for unannounced devices and updates to existing lines.

After Lancaster left Apple, he joined a materials research and development company called Arris. He described his departure as "needing to scratch a startup itch" in his LinkedIn page.

Apple says Arris is an Apple vendor and which enabled Lancaster to continue to siphon trade secrets.

On Lancaster's last day at Apple, he downloaded a "substantial number" of confidential Apple documents from Apple's corporate network onto his personal computer that would benefit him at Arris.

Timeline of events

Image of products Lancaster was a part of building per his LinkedIn page
Image of products Lancaster was a part of building per his LinkedIn page


Simon Lancaster worked as an Advanced Materials Lead and Product Design Architect at Apple until November 1, 2019. His role involved evaluating materials and prototyping innovations to enable future generations of products. Because of his senior role, Lancaster was granted access to certain Secret Apple Information.

The media correspondent first contacted Lancaster on November 29, 2018. Through the remainder of 2018 and into 2019 multiple calls, messages, and emails were exchanged about Apple trade secrets.

In Spring 2019, Lancaster expressed displeasure with Apple based on a story published about a rumored product. He asked the correspondent to investigate this rumor because "it could mean trouble for my startup."

Less than two weeks later, Lancaster communicated to a third party that the correspondent would publish an article after the startup obtained $1 million in funding. By September of 2019, the two were meeting in person and exchanging physical documents and information.

Lancaster told the correspondent he would be leaving Apple in October and asked if they'd write a story "about a 12-year Apple Design Veteran leaving for an amazing startup." He was referring to Arris, which works with Apple, but that couldn't be mentioned in the article.

He then shared a document labeled "confidential" with the correspondent, to which Apple refers to as "Project X." Lancaster then notified Apple of his departure on October 15, 2019, but failed to turn over his appropriated documents. Based on the timeline of events, AppleInsider believes that this is related to the ongoing rumors about "Apple Glass" and Apple's augmented and virtual reality efforts, or possibly the AirPods Max.

Even as he exited the company he attended meetings, one for "Project X." Apple told him directly he shouldn't attend the meeting and was warned again during the meeting. He left before it concluded, but had learned more Apple secrets before doing so.

Nine days after announcing his exit, Lancaster requested access to documents pertaining to two other projects he didn't belong to. He sent that data to the correspondent as well.

Days after departing Apple, Lancaster congratulated the correspondent about the success of an article that disclosed Apple secrets.

Apple brings up three direct causes of action -- violation of Defense of Trade Secret Act, violation of California Uniform Trade Secret Act, and a breach of written contract.

Apple requests that the court provide judgment in its favor for injunctive relief, damages proven at trial, punitive damages, restitution, and costs of the lawsuit. Apple also demands a trial by jury.

Apple Versus Lancaster by Mike Wuerthele on Scribd

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 33
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 8,998member
    So now we know where Jon Prosser gets his info.
    flyingdpwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 33
    Such a shame.

    Is there a Gofundme page to contribute to Apple's suit against this guy?
    buttesilverviclauyycradarthekatStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 33
    JWSCJWSC Posts: 879member
    Oh dear.  Such high hopes for a high flying career - now dashed.
    killroynarwhalwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 33
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,304member
    This guy has all sort of stupid written all over him. 

    He should at least read Tom Clancy before trying to play spie.  /s.   (I tried to insert an emoji, using iPhone keyboard, but it didn’t work). 

    he has basically made himself unemployable
    as no reasonable company will trust him.  
    edited March 11 radarthekatmatteblack13narwhalwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 33
    EsquireCatsEsquireCats Posts: 1,143member
    chadbag said:
    This guy has all sort of stupid written all over him. 

    He should at least read Tom Clancy before trying to play spie.  /s.   (I tried to insert an emoji, using iPhone keyboard, but it didn’t work). 

    he has basically made himself unemployable
    as no reasonable company will trust him.  
    It’s worse than that – it means any company that works with Arris might have their IP misused/stolen. He doesn’t just sink his own career who sinks the entire start-up.
    chadbaggregoriusmradarthekatmatteblack13narwhalwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 33
    tundraboytundraboy Posts: 1,744member
    This guy has the ethics of a Zuckerberg.
    viclauyycmatteblack13VermelhoMacPronarwhalwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 33
    Fred257Fred257 Posts: 76member
    Seems self entitled, like he wouldn’t be caught... He deserves jail time 
    radarthekatMacPronarwhalwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 33
    jdwjdw Posts: 936member
    So who is the "correspondent"?
    Fred257VermelhoMacPronarwhalwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 33
    every team has rats
    killroywatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 33
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,526member
    This guy circumvented one of the sacred tenets of security, something that's fundamental to all branches of the military and national security:

    Seniority/rank/position does not determine one's "need to know."

    As repulsive as this person's actions are, he was obviously not lacking in having enablers. Those who failed to call him out when his "need to know" was not certain when accessing sensitive information should be disciplined as well, up to and including dismissal if they had knowledge of a security violation taking place and failed to prevent it or at least report it.

    Yeah, this is a corporate situation, no one is going to prison, bombs aren't falling on Cupertino, but any corporate officers who have fiduciary responsibilities and were part of this mess must be held accountable to the shareholders and the board. This guy is a mega-douche, a dirty rat, and he should be baked and financially drained in court. But in retrospect Apple seriously needs to tighten up its information security posture and act more quickly and decisively when they think something may be amiss in the hen house. It sounds like Apple did not have sufficient information security safeguards in place, or at least overlooked security because of (perceived) corporate loyalty. I guess we'll learn more details as the suit progresses.
    edited March 11 mainyehcradarthekatrandominternetpersonmatteblack13watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 33
    ppietrappietra Posts: 247member
    "with the complaint addressing alleged misappropriation of trade secrets that were then sold to an unnamed publication in exchange for favorable coverage of a startup."

    This almost certainly means that he didn’t leak to a rumour blog!! Probably leaked to someone at a big financial Journal.

    edited March 11 gregoriusmVermelhonarwhalwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 33
    ppietra said:
    "with the complaint addressing alleged misappropriation of trade secrets that were then sold to an unnamed publication in exchange for favorable coverage of a startup."

    This almost certainly means that he didn’t leak to a rumour blog!! Probably leaked to someone at a big financial Journal.

    Unlikely. The big financial papers (WSJ, Bloomberg, Forbes) have strict policies against paying for a story. That easily gets a reporter fired, not to mention pay-for-play on a story.

    More questions than answers right now.
    radarthekatnarwhalwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 33
    ppietrappietra Posts: 247member
    sevenfeet said:
    ppietra said:
    "with the complaint addressing alleged misappropriation of trade secrets that were then sold to an unnamed publication in exchange for favorable coverage of a startup."

    This almost certainly means that he didn’t leak to a rumour blog!! Probably leaked to someone at a big financial Journal.

    Unlikely. The big financial papers (WSJ, Bloomberg, Forbes) have strict policies against paying for a story. That easily gets a reporter fired, not to mention pay-for-play on a story.

    More questions than answers right now.
    No one was paid, he asked for news coverage for a startup, for which a rumor blog doesn’t make sense since it wouldn’t reach the necessary audience!
    Considering that WSJ, Bloomberg, etc, have been responsible for many Apple rumours in the last few years...
    edited March 11 narwhalwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 33
    ppietra said:
    sevenfeet said:
    ppietra said:
    "with the complaint addressing alleged misappropriation of trade secrets that were then sold to an unnamed publication in exchange for favorable coverage of a startup."

    This almost certainly means that he didn’t leak to a rumour blog!! Probably leaked to someone at a big financial Journal.

    Unlikely. The big financial papers (WSJ, Bloomberg, Forbes) have strict policies against paying for a story. That easily gets a reporter fired, not to mention pay-for-play on a story.

    More questions than answers right now.
    No one was paid, he asked for news coverage for a startup, for which a rumor blog doesn’t make sense since it wouldn’t reach the necessary audience!
    Considering that WSJ, Bloomberg, etc, have been responsible for many Apple rumours in the last few years...
    I agree but payment in this case was the information in exchange for good coverage for his new business. “Pay for play”. That gets you fired in the news business.
    killroynarwhalwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 33
    ppietrappietra Posts: 247member
    sevenfeet said:
    ppietra said:
    sevenfeet said:
    ppietra said:
    "with the complaint addressing alleged misappropriation of trade secrets that were then sold to an unnamed publication in exchange for favorable coverage of a startup."

    This almost certainly means that he didn’t leak to a rumour blog!! Probably leaked to someone at a big financial Journal.

    Unlikely. The big financial papers (WSJ, Bloomberg, Forbes) have strict policies against paying for a story. That easily gets a reporter fired, not to mention pay-for-play on a story.

    More questions than answers right now.
    No one was paid, he asked for news coverage for a startup, for which a rumor blog doesn’t make sense since it wouldn’t reach the necessary audience!
    Considering that WSJ, Bloomberg, etc, have been responsible for many Apple rumours in the last few years...
    I agree but payment in this case was the information in exchange for good coverage for his new business. “Pay for play”. That gets you fired in the news business.
    The thing is, doing a favor (news coverage) is actually common practice, even if ethically wrong!
    killroyapplguywatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 33
    JWSC said:
    Oh dear.  Such high hopes for a high flying career - now dashed.
    He will never be trusted by any company that's worth a dime.
    matteblack13narwhalwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 33
    I wonder if any moves were made. Insider trading will get you a trip to the slammer.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 33
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,331moderator
    The company is Arris Composites.  What they do might just be revolutionary and incorporated heavily into the design of an Apple car. 

    Tesla is creating mega castings using a proprietary aluminum alloy they designed to be able to be rapidly injected and cooled without forming stresses.  This is what allows Tesla to create the entire rear end of the Model Y frame as a single piece, replacing 70 pieces that represent the Model 3 rear frame assembly.  This not only reduces 69 components that have to be designed, sourced and assembled, but it creates a rear frame assembly that is ultra precise, meaning the addition of body panels is that much more precise, resulting in a higher quality vehicle that’s cheaper to manufacture in less manufacturing space with fewer robots and employees.  A win all around.  

    Arris has developed a process that combines the efficiency and precision of injection molding with the materials and structure of carbon fiber.  

    Here’s an article about that...

    https://www.designnews.com/materials/arris-composites-combines-speed-injection-molding-strength-carbon-fiber

    The result is a part that could be structurally equivalent to Tesla’s Model Y single piece cast rear frame section, but with even lower weight and potentially higher strength, than Tesla’s aluminum alloy.  Certainly lower weight.  I can imagine Apple is looking at everything Tesla has been doing and thinking, can we do even better?  

    Here’s the Yahoo Finance private company detail  page on Arris Composites, showing Simon Lancaster in his role there...

    https://finance.yahoo.com/company/arris-composites?h=eyJlIjoiYXJyaXMtY29tcG9zaXRlcyIsIm4iOiJBcnJpcyJ9&.tsrc=fin-srch

    My guess is this lawsuit will be settled with some accommodation to Apple that doesn’t end Lancaster’s career.  The two companies will continue to work together and all will be put behind them.  

    But doesn’t this make you a bit more anxious for an eventual Apple vehicle reveal?  
    edited March 12 drdavidapplguymatteblack13Vermelhokillroymuthuk_vanalingampscooter63watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 33
    The guy made a fortune at Apple and that's how he pays them back. What a douche.
    matteblack13narwhalwatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 33
    ppietrappietra Posts: 247member
    The company is Arris Composites.  What they do might just be revolutionary and incorporated heavily into the design of an Apple car. 

    Tesla is creating mega castings using a proprietary aluminum alloy they designed to be able to be rapidly injected and cooled without forming stresses.  This is what allows Tesla to create the entire rear end of the Model Y frame as a single piece, replacing 70 pieces that represent the Model 3 rear frame assembly.  This not only reduces 69 components that have to be designed, sourced and assembled, but it creates a rear frame assembly that is ultra precise, meaning the addition of body panels is that much more precise, resulting in a higher quality vehicle that’s cheaper to manufacture in less manufacturing space with fewer robots and employees.  A win all around.  

    Arris has developed a process that combines the efficiency and precision of injection modeling with the materials and structure of carbon fiber.  

    Here’s an article about that...

    https://www.designnews.com/materials/arris-composites-combines-speed-injection-molding-strength-carbon-fiber

    The result is a part that could be structurally equivalent to Tesla’s Model Y single piece cast rear frame section, but with even lower weight and potentially higher strength, than Tesla’s aluminum alloy.  Certainly lower weight.  I can imagine Apple is looking at everything Tesla has been doing and thinking, can we do even better?  

    Here’s the Yahoo Finance private company detail  page on Arris Composites, showing Simon Lancaster in his role there...

    https://finance.yahoo.com/company/arris-composites?h=eyJlIjoiYXJyaXMtY29tcG9zaXRlcyIsIm4iOiJBcnJpcyJ9&.tsrc=fin-srch

    My guess is this lawsuit will be settled with some accommodation to Apple that doesn’t end Lancaster’s career.  The two companies will continue to work together and all will be put behind them.  

    But doesn’t this make you a bit more anxious for an eventual Apple vehicle reveal?  
    That is not necessarily the startup that he wanted to benefit with news coverage. Reading his bio it seems that he invested in several startups.
    watto_cobra
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