Tesla software engineer allegedly stole ‘extremely valuable’ trade secrets days after being hired

Tesla Fremont
Tesla's Fremont factory - Dai Sugano / Bay Area News Group

If history has proven anything, it is that you probably shouldn’t try and steal trade secrets from Tesla. That is exactly what the automaker is alleging in a lawsuit after they fired a software engineer that was on the job for just two weeks.

The former engineer, Alex Khatilov was hired by Tesla on December 28, 2020. According to the automaker, Khatilov had access to trade secrets that only about 40 of the 50,000 employees can access, reports The New York Post.

In its lawsuit Tesla alleges he used that access to download 26,000 files and scripts to his personal Dropbox account that “had nothing to do with his responsibilities.” This included scripts that automated important business tasks like ordering parts and delivering vehicles.

The automaker alleges these stolen files were “extremely valuable” to them, and perhaps even more so to a competitor.

“Access to these scripts would enable engineers at other companies to reverse engineer Tesla‚Äôs processes to create a similar system in a fraction of the time and with a fraction of the expense,” Tesla said in its lawsuit.

When confronted about the downloads during a video call on January 6, Tesla says Khatilov claimed he “forgot” about the thousands of files. While attempting to access his computer remotely during the call, the engineer tried to quickly delete the Dropbox client and other files, the lawsuit alleges. Khatilov says he deleted the files at Tesla’s request.

On Friday U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers granted a restraining order against Khatilov. As part of the order, the engineer must immediately preserve and return all files, records, and emails to Tesla. He must also appear before the judge remotely on February 4.

The case is Tesla v. Khatilov, 21-cv-00528, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (San Jose).

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Founder and Editor-in-chief of Drive Tesla Canada | Darryn@DriveTeslaCanada.ca Have a Tesla tip? Email tips@driveteslacanada.ca, or DM us on Twitter @DriveTeslaca