Santa Clara District Attorney’s Office has launched a criminal investigation of Apple’s former product designer, Simon Lancaster for allegedly stealing trade secrets of Apple’s ‘Project X.’ In March this year, Apple filed a lawsuit against Lancaster for deliberately giving details of upcoming products to an unnamed correspondent in exchange for positive publicity for a new venture he had invested in, Arris.
In May, the accused Lancaster admitted that he was in contact with a reporter but denied that he abused his power and trust and stole the company’s secrets. In his formal response to Apple’s allegations, he said that he did not purposely sell the company’s secrets and that reporter’s article on an alleged new product similar to what Lancaster was working on was purely coincidental. Although Apple vs. Lancaster lawsuit proceeding will begin on November 18, 2021, Santa Clara’s DA is investigating his involvement in the “theft of trade secrets.”
Investigators seek warrants to confiscate online accounts and computers of Apple’s former employee accused of selling trade secrets
The criminal investigation included search warrants to access Lancaster’s computer and online accounts.
Subsequently, Lancaster also learned that at least four search warrants had previously been executed by the State with respect to certain online accounts held by Lancaster. The warrants also sought forensic images of information contained on two computers used by Lancaster. The warrant applications asserted probable cause to believe the information sought was stolen or embezzled, or evidenced the commission of a felony. The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office has also assigned a veteran prosecutor to the case.
In wake of the criminal investigation, Lancaster has requested the court to stop Apple’s civil lawsuit proceedings until the Santa Clara investigation is over because it will impede his Fifth Amendment rights.
The primary consideration on this motion to stay is the defendant’s Fifth Amendment rights and whether those rights “will be implicated by discovery and disclosures required in the civil action.” Where, as here, the issues in the two proceedings are essentially the same, the defendant’s Fifth Amendment rights “will be implicated.”