Tesla sues Rivian: The Expanding Lawsuit.
In July 2020, Tesla filed a lawsuit against Rivian alleging that Rivian stole trade secrets. Tesla specifically alleged that Rivian stole trade secrets when it hired Tesla employees who disclosed sensitive and confidential information to Rivian. Tesla protects its trade secrets by requiring all employees to sign a broad nondisclosure agreement (NDA) which defines propriety information as "all information."
Rivian has denied all wrongdoing. Consequently, Rivian moved to have the claim dismissed.
In March of 2021, The California Superior Court denied Rivian's request for dismissal. (See gov.uscourts.cal44.4319638.98.0.pdf). The court also declined Rivian's request to dismiss claims that Tesla has lodged against seven former Tesla employees who now work for Rivian.
Bolstered by the win in March, Tesla filed an amended complaint in September of 2021 in which Tesla expanded its lawsuit against Rivian by alleging that Rivian also stole highly proprietary and confidential battery technology. Although the court allowed Tesla to file the amended complaint, it also noted that Rivian's argument, which was that Tesla had failed to allege any plausible facts to support its contentions, had "some appeal to it."
In October 2021, Rivian filed a motion to compel further identification of trade secrets at issue under the California Code of Civil Procedure section 2019.210. Section 2019.210 requires that in any action alleging the misappropriation of trade secrets, the party alleging the misappropriation "shall" identify the trade secret at issue with "reasonable particularity." By filing its motion, Rivian essentially alleged that Tesla had failed to identify, with reasonable particularity, the trade secret that Tesla alleges Rivian stole and, as a result, Tesla should not be allowed to pursue discovery. Although this was a valid argument on the part of Rivian, Rivian's motion was nevertheless denied by Judge Manoukian as essentially being premature.
Shortly thereafter, Tesla issued a series of interrogatories to Rivian and its employees. Rivian objected, and a Discovery Referee (a discovery referee is typically appointed to hear and determine discovery motions and disputes relevant to discovery) was assigned to the case in July of 2022 to address Tesla's motion to compel responses to its interrogatories and Rivian's objections to said interrogatories. In September of 2022, the Discovery Referee (Hon. Elizabeth D. Laporte (Ret.) granted in part and denied in part Tesla's Motion to Compel Discovery Responses.
Before Tesla could pursue the requested interrogatories, however, Rivian fired back at Tesla in October 2022 by filing both a motion to compel evidence of misappropriation and a motion to compel documents relating to Tesla's internal investigation. Rivian appears to have filed these motions because it believes that Tesla is essentially pursuing this claim without really having any evidence to show what actual trade secret they allege Rivian's employees stole. On October 21, 2022, the Discovery Referee granted both of Rivian's motions.
Bolstered by the granting of their earlier motions, on December 2, 2022, Rivian filed a Motion for Protective Order Regarding the Inadequacy of Trade Secret Disclosure Under Civ. proc. Code Section 2019.210. In other words, Rivian is claiming that Tesla should not be allowed to pursue discovery in this pending trade secrets claim unless and until Tesla meets its burden under the California Code of Civil Procedure section 2019.210 in identifying the trade secret that they allege Rivian stole with "reasonable particularity." Stated simply, it appears that Rivian is essentially moving to have the court force Tesla to provide a more detailed description of the alleged trade secrets at issue, which Tesla has had difficulty doing thus far.
If Rivian's motion is granted and Tesla cannot provide the specific facts required under 2019.210 to support its claims, Tesla's claims will be hard-pressed to succeed on the merits.
Tesla is bringing this lawsuit under California's Uniform Trade Secrets Act.