Apple Accuses Former Employee of Stealing Trade Secrets and Leaking Them to Media

Apple today filed a lawsuit against Simon Lancaster, a former employee who allegedly used his position within the company to steal "sensitive trade secret information" from Apple that was then leaked to a journalist and published in rumor articles.

project x feature yellow
Lancaster worked at Apple for more than a decade, using his seniority to attend internal meetings and access documents that Apple says were "outside the scope of his job's responsibilities." Details he obtained were published in media articles that "cited a 'source' at Apple."

In exchange for the leaked information, Lancaster asked the media person he was in contact with for favors, such as providing favorable coverage of a startup company that Lancaster invested in.

Until November 1, 2019, Lancaster was employed as an Advanced Materials Lead and Product Design Architect involved with multiple hardware projects. His role was evaluating materials and prototyping innovations for future hardware devices. He began leaking details to the media contact on November 29, 2018 through text messages, emails, and phone calls.

After resigning from Apple, Lancaster "deepened" his relationship with the media correspondent he was speaking to, and Apple's internal investigation of Apple-owned devices that Lancaster returned after employment suggested that he communicated about "specific Apple trade secrets" while also taking "specific steps" to seek out additional information. On his last day, Lancaster downloaded a "substantial number" of confidential Apple documents.

Further, forensic review of the devices Apple provided to Lancaster for his work at Apple shows Lancaster and the Correspondent coordinated to pilfer specific documents and product information from Apple. On numerous occasions, the Correspondent had requested Lancaster obtain specific Apple trade secret documents and information. On multiple occasions, Lancaster then sent the Correspondent certain of the requested confidential materials using Apple-owned devices. On other occasions, Lancaster met with the Correspondent in person to provide them with the requested confidential Apple information.

According to Apple, the information that Lancaster shared included details of "unreleased Apple hardware products, unannounced feature changes to existing hardware products, and future product announcements." He also took on a new role at Arris Composites, a vendor serving under Apple, and Apple says that he accessed confidential information that would assist Arris in addition to leaking Apple documents to the media.

Apple does not provide detail on which products were leaked by Lancaster, but many of the leaks happened right around October and November of 2019, and concerned what Apple calls "Project X." Just after Lancaster left, in fact, he spoke with the journalist that he leaked details to, congratulating the person on the success of an article that contained details he had leaked.

Like all Apple employees, Lancaster signed a "Confidentiality and Intellectual Property Agreement" prior to being hired by Apple that prohibits them from sharing secret and proprietary information, plus he attended "security trainings" and "Business Conduct" events centered on preventing theft of secret documents.

Apple is now seeking damages that were incurred as a result of the trade secrets that Lancaster stole, with Apple planning to determine the amount at trial. Apple also wants to recover from Lancaster all gains, profits, and advantages that he obtained through the document theft.

The lawsuit was first shared by AppleInsider this afternoon. We've uploaded the full document, and it's a fascinating read that covers leak culture within Apple and the lengths the company will go to in order to put a stop to it.

Top Rated Comments

Ricebucket Avatar
39 months ago
Pretty hypocritical of you guys for making fun of this guy on this forum. This is a rumors website... You and this website created the demand and are the consumers of his "stolen" goods.

Like a crack addict making fun of his drug dealer when the dealer gets busted.
Score: 52 Votes (Like | Disagree)
moabal Avatar
39 months ago
So does this mean Jon Prosser is out of business now?
Score: 51 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ericinboston Avatar
39 months ago
I bet Apple will make an example out of him. Regardless of what you think of Apple, nobody should steal (let alone distribute) trade secrets and/or confidential materials from their employer. It's simply not worth getting sued for every penny you own, going to jail, or both. Obviously, it's also very unethical.
Score: 40 Votes (Like | Disagree)
HarryKeogh Avatar
39 months ago
“Got my dream job and have a leadership role in one of the most powerful, prestigious companies in the world...now how can I totally destroy my career and life?!”
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
AngerDanger Avatar
39 months ago

So I guess this person was the reason the keynotes weren't as exciting over the years.
Well, that, and visiting rumor sites where these leaks are published… ;)
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Realityck Avatar
39 months ago
Appleinsider had a bit more ('https://appleinsider.com/articles/21/03/11/apple-sues-former-employee-over-device-leaks-to-media')



* Even as he exited the company he attended meetings, one for "Project X." Apple told him directly he shouldn't attend the meeting and was warned again during the meeting. He left before it concluded, but had learned more Apple secrets before doing so.
* Nine days after announcing his exit, Lancaster requested access to documents pertaining to two other projects he didn't belong to. He sent that data to the correspondent as well.
* Days after departing Apple, Lancaster congratulated the correspondent about the success of an article that disclosed Apple secrets.

Breaking a NDA can have serious consequences
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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