11-year Veteran MacBook Designer Sued by Apple over Stealing Trade Secrets

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Simon Lancaster, a former product design architect at Apple, is being sued by the company for allegedly selling trade secrets and details on unreleased Apple products to an unnamed journalist. According to the report, Lancaster did this in hopes of gaining PR for his planned startup after leaving Apple. The legal filing is first reported on AppleInsider 

“Tens of thousands of Apple employees work tirelessly every day on new products, services, and features in the hopes of delighting our customers and empowering them to change the world. Stealing ideas and confidential information undermines their efforts, hurting Apple and our customers,” commented Apple in a statement to The Verge. “We take very seriously this individual’s deliberate theft of our trade secrets, violation of our ethics and our policies, all for personal gain. We will do all we can to protect the innovations we hold so dear.”

According to Apple’s suit, the communication between Lancaster and his correspondent started in 2018, with the topic of the possibility of obtaining information. Their communication continued to the following year. In Spring 2019, Lancaster reportedly contacted his correspondent, asking him to investigate the rumors surrounding a potential Apple product that could mean “trouble” for his startup. 

The lawsuit also states that after that conversation, Lancaster boasted to a third party that his correspondent will release an article on his startup once hitting a $1 million in funding. 

In October 2019, it was reported that Lancaster contacted his correspondent, saying that he is planning to leave Apple, will spill secret information on Apple products, and further asking if they want “to write a story about a 12-year Apple Design Veteran leaving for an amazing startup.”

The correspondent also allegedly asked Lancaster to obtain additional information on an undisclosed project that Apple refers to as “Project X.”

On October 15th, Lancaster submitted his notice of resignation, however, has kept in communication with his correspondent, who allegedly asked for particular documents they wanted Lancaster to acquire before leaving Apple.

Apple also claims that despite submitting his resignation notice and instructed by others to not attend, Lancaster still manages to attend a meeting about “Project X.” It is believed that his motive is to obtain information to hand over to his correspondent. 

According to Apple, until the end of Lancaster’s employment, he used his Apple credentials and logged in from an external location, allegedly downloading confidential information that would eventually help his new employer. 

Lancaster was employed by Apple in 2008 and has spent 11 years with the company as advanced materials lead and product design architect before resigning in 2019 to join Arris Composites, a material design company, as its head of consumer products. During his time with Apple, he worked on the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook with Touch Bar redesigns, as well as unreleased Apple products.