After being named as a defendant in a data-theft lawsuit filed by San Jose, Calif.-based solar manufacturer SunPower, systems integrator SolarCity has fired back, attributing the legal tussle to a perceived business threat.
Although SolarCity does not manufacture PV products, the two firms operate in a similar space in the downstream market; SunPower offers its products to end users through its extensive dealer network.
‘SolarCity's commercial market share has grown significantly in the past few years, and this growth threatens SunPower,’ said SolarCity spokesperson Jonathan Bass in a statement emailed to Solar Industry.
Earlier this week, SunPower filed a complaint in a California court alleging that five former SunPower employees – now working at SolarCity – copied large amounts of confidential information from SunPower's servers, in violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the company's internal policies. The suit also names SolarCity as a defendant.
According to SunPower's complaint, which was first reported in the San Jose Mercury News, the ex-employees – Tom Leyden, Matt Giannini, Dan Leary, Felix Aguayo and Alice Cathcart – transferred tens of thousands of computer files onto personal USB devices just before leaving SunPower for SolarCity. The confidential and proprietary information includes sales quotes, contracts, market analyses, account information and other sales-related data.
Leyden is additionally accused of copying ‘highly confidential data’ from a SunPower database related to more than $100 million in sales. By accessing this information, which included the name of the SunPower employee responsible for the sales, Leyden was able to recruit three of the other named individuals to join him at SolarCity, according to the complaint.
SunPower says the five individuals are continuing to unlawfully use the information in their new SolarCity jobs.
SunPower has not yet issued an official announcement regarding the suit.
Although SolarCity's Bass did not comment specifically on the guilt or innocence of the employees in question, he stated that SolarCity ‘upholds high standards in operational integrity for itself and its employees.’
‘SolarCity takes trade-secret issues very seriously, and we will ensure that we act in accordance with the law,’ he added.