Self-Driving Cars: Ex-Apple Employee In Court Over Alleged Trade Secret Sale

by: The Knowledge Group

July 24, 2018


Self-driving vehicles appear to be the wave of the future.  As evidenced by recent accusations of trade secret theft against a former Apple engineer, there is a heated competition between businesses as well as countries to perfect autonomous vehicle technology.  Zhang Xiaolang is the former Apple engineer in question.  Federal agents arrested Xiaolang while boarding a flight back to China.  Xiaolang was charged with downloading proprietary files when leaving Apple for China-based Xiaopeng Motors.  He was accused of stealing secrets pertaining to self-driving vehicles for a Chinese business.  Though Xiolang states he downloaded Apple driverless tech files to a laptop owned by his wife, he pleaded not guilty to the aforementioned charge.

Zhang is a Free Man for the Time Being

Xiolang’s attorney, Daniel Olmos, stated his client has secured bail by putting property up as collateral.  Zhang did not utter a word at his federal court hearing, opting to listen through an interpreter.  If found guilty of trade secret theft, Xiolang will face upwards of an entire decade in prison and possibly even a quarter-million dollar fine.  Prosecutors argue Xiolang used his wife’s laptop to download Apple’s autonomous vehicle technology in order to access the secrets without oversight or potential repercussion.

Xiaopeng Motors issued a statement to confirm the company is cooperating with the federal government’s investigation.  Company representatives also stated there is no indication Zhang communicated valuable or otherwise sensitive information regarding Apple’s autonomous vehicle technology to Xiaopeng Motors.  The auto company’s executives went on to state employees have followed the laws of both countries.  Furthermore, Xiaopeng Motors executives stressed their business respects intellectual property rights of Apple as well as other businesses.

Apple’s Autonomous Vehicle Project is Still a Mystery

Those who work in the tech industry are quite curious about Apple’s plans for a self-driving vehicle.  Though the company has kept the general public updated on the technology’s latest developments, it appears as though Tesla’s self-driving vehicles will beat Apple’s to the market by several months or even a full year.  Apple executives announced their plan to manufacture an autonomous vehicle way back in 2015.  The company’s aim is to compete with Tesla and other automobile companies in the self-driving sector.  Apple has added 1,000 engineers since the project began.  If Apple’s self-driving technology has been stolen, it will be a significant setback in the race to bring safe and efficient self-driving vehicles to the market.

Be sure to register now our August 14th webcast on the Defend Trade Secrets Act, and the latest trends and developments.  This webcast would be eligible for Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit and full registration can be seen by clicking here.  We hope to see you there