Apple files lawsuit against former employee over leaking trade secrets to the media

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 lawsuit, first reported by Apple Insider, claims that Sam Lancaster began talks with his media correspondent in November 2018, and over the next year the two continued communication over calls, text messages, and email. He exchanged information relating to “unreleased Apple hardware products, unannounced feature changes to existing hardware products, and future product announcements” to gain positive coverage for a startup he joined after leaving Apple in November 2019.

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.

Apple says its internal investigation revealed that Lancaster used company-issued devices on multiple occasions to send confidential information that his correspondent had requested, choosing sometimes to meet in person. He also attended a meeting on ‘Project X’ despite being instructed otherwise and spent his last day at the company downloading a “substantial number” of secret Apple documents to help him at his new place of work, Arris Composites.

Lancaster’s communication with his unnamed media contact deepened following his resignation, according to Apple, while the correspondent published the stolen trade secrets in articles, citing a “source” at Apple. The lawsuit notes it’s “likely” that the stolen information is being misused by the former employee to this day.

Apple has demanded a jury trial and accused Lancaster of multiple violations, including the Defense of Trade Secret Act and breach of a written contract.

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