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AMD Employee Charged With Stealing Intel Secrets

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  • by bugeaterr (836984) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @11:06AM (#25025657)

    It was the design of the Pentium Pro's floating point processor.

  • by oldspewey (1303305) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @11:08AM (#25025675)
    The irony is that his new employer (AMD) would never touch the stolen info with a 10-foot pole. The company I work with (also in the IT sector but not hardware) has very, very clear policies around competitive information. They know just how badly it would go for them if they made use of stolen information brought in by a new (or even existing) employee.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @11:10AM (#25025711)

      "AMD" wouldn't touch it but it's quite possible lower level employees would look at it to gain valuable insights. Sure they wouldn't directly clone a design but just seeing how it's done can be invaluable.

      • by HungryHobo (1314109) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @12:55PM (#25027029)

        Kinda surprises me that we don't see more leaked info from anon disgruntled employees.
        Would I be correct in in assuming that once something has reached the public that it loses it's "trade secret" status and can be used by anyone.
        they'd have to be careful of watermarks etc though.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rtb61 (674572)
        More likely the reality is that the employee will simply fudge, claim that works as his own in order to seek bonuses, promotions etc. without actually having to do work or even being all that capable of doing it. Likely that particular fellow also borrowed his fellow workmates work to claim as his own whilst at Intel. I once worked with a person like that, all the problems he created where your fault and all the solutions you provided where his and he did bring in some documentation that he claimed as his o
    • by RulerOf (975607) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @11:11AM (#25025713)

      (AMD) would never touch the stolen info with a 10-foot pole.

      Even if they couldn't directly plagiarize the information to enhance their current architecture (I understand there are a lot of very fundamental differences between them), it would be valuable to AMD if they could determine, for example, how fast Intel's next gen chip is going to be in order to make a product that would be able to compete better, even if it meant sacrificing margins.

      • by Otter (3800)
        They'd have to be out of their minds to do that either. Pani is (allegedly) an idiot if he thought he could score points with this.
      • by eebra82 (907996) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @12:22PM (#25026697) Homepage

        [..] it would be valuable to AMD if they could determine, for example, how fast Intel's next gen chip is going to be in order to make a product that would be able to compete better, even if it meant sacrificing margins.

        Help me explain your theory here. What you are suggesting is that AMD is working at less than full capacity because they don't know what Intel is prepping in the future? These two companies are bittersweet rivals and knowing that your opponent's product will be 200% faster than the previous one is not going to make AMD's scientists think harder.

        Ignorance is bliss, I guess.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by shaitand (626655)

          Let me explain further, the reason they both do this is because they want to maximize the profits on the research and development they have already done.

          You release just enough technology to be the top contender now so that you reserve as much technology as possible to sell later. The longer you can profit on any given technology without releasing more the better.

        • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:25PM (#25027469) Journal
          Developing a CPU takes around 4-6 years from start to first samples. This is anywhere from 3-5 generations of Moore's law. You need to guess very early on the transistor budget available to be able to make the chip affordable. If you delay the release, you get a bit more design time and a more transistors for the same cost. If AMD know now that Intel's next-generation architecture will have certain performance characteristics, then they might decide that it's worth delaying their next design a bit and rolling out a version with a few features that previously they'd thought they'd have to cut. Alternatively, it might be better for them to bring their new architecture forward and sacrifice a few features to fit it on to a smaller die.
      • by v1 (525388)

        Direct plagiarism isn't necessary or even a good idea. By looking at plans or seeing insider documentation they could get all sorts of use without leaving any easily traceable path. Might look at the schematics and say oh.. I wonder why they're doing that, we wouldn't have noticed this even if we'd have taken it apart, they're going to great lengths to make sure xxx happens. Oh wait, I wonder that solves this lingering problem we've had for years, that they've never had a problem with. Call up R&D I

      • Wouldn't it be legally safer to hire the former DEC designers from whom Intel stole the Alpha technologies for the Pentium itself, since that is much of the foundation of the Pentium designs ever since? Or do you think they've gotten too old? Quite a few of them were extremely upset when DEC failed to properly press its lawsuits against Intel for the theft. Between that theft, and the theft of VMS technologies by David Cutler for Windows NT, the Wintel architecture became powerful enough to challenge DEC's
    • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @11:21AM (#25025855) Homepage Journal

      The irony is that his new employer (AMD) would never touch the stolen info with a 10-foot pole.

      It's not unlike the disgruntled Coca-Cola employees who took the Coke Zero formula to Pepsi. Pepsi wouldn't touch it with Dr. Pepper's 10-foot pole. They turned the disgruntled employees into the appropriate authorities, notified Coke and sent the formula back without breaking the seal.

      Duh. The legal hassles alone aren't worth it.

      • by rumblin'rabbit (711865) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @11:44AM (#25026169) Journal
        And generally they want to promote a culture of honesty and integrity. If Pepsi employees think it's okay to steal from Coke, they'll think it's okay to steal from Pepsi.

        Certain political radicals would claim that capitalism is inherently dishonest and corrupt. Although there is plenty of that, they would be amazed at the degree of integrity required to run a successful business.
        • Although there is plenty of that, they would be amazed at the degree of integrity required to run a successful business.

          Just... wow. You must either be a business owner/executive, or still put your teeth under the pillow for a quarter.

          • by rumblin'rabbit (711865) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:10PM (#25027239) Journal
            And I can only assume that you are very young or haven't spent much time in business. You appear to have drunk the cool-aid that Hollywood and others have prepared about what free enterprize is truly about.

            The basic formula is this: Low integrity loses you both customers and employees. That's not to say that you can't make a profit doing this, but it's the more difficult route.

            And no, I'm not an owner or executive.
            • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:31PM (#25027551) Journal

              The basic formula is this: Low integrity loses you both customers and employees. That's not to say that you can't make a profit doing this, but it's the more difficult route.

              Sadly, not true. Low integrity makes you a short-term profit, and selects for e kind of executive who moves to a new company before it's apparent that is company has no future.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by geminidomino (614729) *

              The basic formula is this: Low integrity loses you both customers and employees. That's not to say that you can't make a profit doing this, but it's the more difficult route.

              Ahh, there's your flawed premise. "Low/Lack of integrity" doesn't lose you anything. What loses customers and employees is getting caught.

              If you can go long enough without getting caught (as sibling said, to change companies, for example), being a scumbag can be incredibly profitable.

              • It's quite hard not to get caught. The work force is, um, well seasoned these days. They are not naive - they've seen the tricks and deceptions and know what to look for. They can smell duplicity at a hundred paces.

                I'm not saying that lack of integrity doesn't exist, or that it can't be profitable. I am saying that it's the exception, not the rule.

                And that jives very well with what I see at work every day.
                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by geminidomino (614729) *

                  You give the average working shmoe a lot of credit. That's a lot of evolution in just 6 years(Worldcom, June 2002). They got caught.

                  Hell, nowadays, getting caught doesn't even matter so much, as long as you have your army of lawyers pervert the law enough to justify you.

                  I don't think it's coincidence that most of the most successful/lucrative industries are the least integral (Law, Insurance, Entertainment, Politics, Oil).

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by rahvin112 (446269)

              A good example of this is Costco. A company run by a founder, a man who believes strongly in limiting profits to retain consumers. A man that believes in no restriction returns, even food. A man that believes a well paid employee is a happy and helpful employee. I see the difference every single time I go to Costco. You have a pleasant helpful staff, unlike stores like walmart where you are lucky to find anyone. You have customers like myself who don't worry too much about the prices because I know I'm not

      • by fyrewulff (702920)

        That and it's not the formula, it's the brand name. Pepsi would gain nothing from selling a pop that tastes like Coca Cola, because people would just continue to buy Coca Cola.

        If I want a Pepsi, I buy them. Coke, I buy them. (I'm one of those weird people that drinks both.)

        • If I want a Pepsi, I buy them. Coke, I buy them. (I'm one of those weird people that drinks both.)

          It's not weird to drink both; what's weird is drinking both while actually caring about the difference. I, for example, don't care: I just drink whichever happens to be cheaper at the moment.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by anss123 (985305)

            It's not weird to drink both; what's weird is drinking both while actually caring about the difference. I, for example, don't care: I just drink whichever happens to be cheaper at the moment.

            There is a difference?

            • by afidel (530433)
              Yes, proportions of acid and sugar are different in each.
              • by fyrewulff (702920)

                Pepsi is sweeter, and Coke has a bit more of a.. bite? chemical taste? whatever?

                Yeah, just drink whatever's cheaper.

                Remarkably, you can tell more a difference between what is supposedly the same 'flavor' (Root Beer) between MUG, A&W, and Barq's..

      • everybody knows the secret ingredient is lavender. what amuses me are the adverts that claim the ingredients for coke have never changed, despite the fact it used to contain coke.

      • by GTRacer (234395)

        But, but... Was *Pepsi's* reason for not breaking the seal because of the expected legal hassle, or because they had tried Coke Zero and found it... less than tasty?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by UnknowingFool (672806)
        From what I read [cnn.com], Pepsi never got near the documents. One of the Coke employees sent a message to Pepsi using Coke official letterhead. Pepsi went to the FBI. Through an undercover agent, the FBI paid $10,000 for 14 pages of confidential Coca-Cola memos. Then the FBI paid for other documentation and even a product sample of an unreleased product. Pepsi never actually handled any Coca-Cola materials.
    • by denis-The-menace (471988) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @11:50AM (#25026267)

      The sad thing is that such laws are only respected in countries like the US and UK.

      Soon countries like China will be able to have much better technologies because they can take the best from all sides and create a super product. Even if the US and UK forbid the importation of such products, companies in the US and UK would be at a disadvantage selling inferior product to other countries.

      Patents and copyrights will prove to be our downfall since they no longer encourage progress but prevent it.

    • by Kjella (173770) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @12:10PM (#25026551) Homepage

      The irony is that his new employer (AMD) would never touch the stolen info with a 10-foot pole. The company I work with (also in the IT sector but not hardware) has very, very clear policies around competitive information. They know just how badly it would go for them if they made use of stolen information brought in by a new (or even existing) employee.

      Only a complete and utter moron would come in with a stack of papers stolen from a competitor, I'd have him locked out of every system and escorted out the door before he could steal anything from our company. The problem is more if he's coming up with many great ideas, great analysis and great solutions - either you've scored one of those brilliant employees that drive a department or even division or he's using inside information, but there's no easy way to tell which. Or more likely, to suspect but just turn a blind eye and play completely surprised if shit hits the fan. I don't think the manager would go to legal unless it's so blatant he's sure the shit will hit the fan here and people would question why he didn't see the signs. As for legal, is that any surprise? Any lawyer that gave any other legal advice would probably be fired, disbarred and in jail.

    • Couldn't they do something similar to what Compaq did with IBM's BIOS? Have one group look at the info, then make some notes and passing those notes to another team?

    • by Neoprofin (871029)
      To back that up, just last year a couple of Coke employees got caught trying to sell trade secrets about some new products to Pepsi.

      Who contacted the authorities? Pepsi.
  • AMD and Intel? (Score:4, Informative)

    by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @11:08AM (#25025683)
    Toyota and Ferrari?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by blindd0t (855876)

      Toyota and Ferrari?

      Which would you buy?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by blindd0t (855876)

        Yeah, I'm replying to myself here, but seriously, I'd sooner buy a twin-turbo Toyota Supra (even if it requires a little work on my part) before buying a Ferrari. I have an idea of what GP was trying to get at here, but I don't know that comparing motor companies had the intended (and likely abrasive toward AMD) effect. Perhaps comparing specific models would have though. ^_^ That said, I have no problems with having second best for far less, so AMD is a good option to me, personally (especially with Vi

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @11:12AM (#25025725)

    He took the "Intel Inside" campaign too far.

  • by rickkas7 (983760) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @11:12AM (#25025727)
    Poaching the dumb employees from your competitor is probably not the most sound business plan, either.
  • Usefulness? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by AscianBound (1359727)
    I really have to wonder how significant the information that Intel could get out of these documents is. It seems to me that a few CAD designs and some "confidential" documentation wouldn't be enough to actually give AMD an edge in the market. Even if this information did include Intel "secrets" would they really be things that AMD could implement?

    The guy says he copied of the documents "out of curiosity", which doesn't actually strike me as that implausible. I know I have copies of software packages b
    • something that's labeled "confidential" or "top secret" will always pique people's curiosity. i remember when i was in high school or junior high my dad brought home some confidential Intel schematics that he was working with. they were just drawings of a CPU cooling unit or fan funnel or something. it was of no use to me, and i really didn't understand what i was looking at, but the fact that it was marked as confidential and watermarked to identify leaked documents just made it that much more tantalizing.

    • I know I have copies of software packages being licensed for $500,000+ to my previous employer.

      Yeah, but where do you keep these copies? Are they just on your home PC, or did you take them with you to your new job and show them off to your new boss?

  • He obviously won't be getting a job anywhere else in the industry again. No one's going to hire a guy that's going to steal your IP when he leaves.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @11:21AM (#25025861)

      We all steal IP when we leave. Most of us do it in our heads however.

      • don't worry, once we gain a better understanding of human neurology i'm sure there will be devices designed specifically for wiping ex-employees' memories to protect a company's IP and trade secrets.

        it may even prove useful for resolving sexual harassment charges brought against the CEO.

    • by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @11:39AM (#25026089) Homepage

      Oh holy spagetti monster, every IT person and CS person absolutely rapes the IP when they leave.

      In my boxes that I used to clean out my desk is at least 30 confidential documents that were packed there by the moving company, (I got to keep my desk! that was cool!) and I know I have copies of all the code I wrote when I was there as well as all the SQL queries I wrote.

      I have yet to meet someone that says, "I just left company X, no I don't have anything from my old job..." or " I cant fix that, I fixed that at company Y and they own the IP to that fix."

      All of you rape and pillage IP when you leave. Accidentally or on purpose, you do it. Being a moron and trying to SELL that or taking it with malicious intent? that is the kicker. if he had it because that is how his desk was packed up for him then it's not his fault, nor is he liable for anything.

      • by Bovius (1243040)

        I have yet to meet someone that says, "I just left company X, no I don't have anything from my old job..." or " I cant fix that, I fixed that at company Y and they own the IP to that fix."

        All of you rape and pillage IP when you leave. Accidentally or on purpose, you do it.

        Now hold on a second. I think you're including too much under the intellectual property / trade secrets umbrella. There are plenty of concepts and methods in most tech fields that are far too general to be considered a competetive threat if other people get their hands on them. If I learned to write SQL at my current company, that doesn't mean I can't write queries for anyone else, ever, nor would showing someone else a query I wrote for the company necessarily be a breach of IP, assuming I changed table/co

        • I've certainly shown code I've written for other companies. That's because it was under a GPL copyright. That's one of the besst ways to demonstrate competence, publicly and where other people can pick it apart and look for bugs.
      • by networkconsultant (1224452) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @12:05PM (#25026463)
        During the course of my career I've signed enough Non-Disclosure agreements that it's illegal for me to think; Anecdotes often result in law suits.
      • by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdot@worfMOSCOW.net minus city> on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @12:09PM (#25026513)

        Oh holy spagetti monster, every IT person and CS person absolutely rapes the IP when they leave.

        In my boxes that I used to clean out my desk is at least 30 confidential documents that were packed there by the moving company, (I got to keep my desk! that was cool!) and I know I have copies of all the code I wrote when I was there as well as all the SQL queries I wrote.

        I have yet to meet someone that says, "I just left company X, no I don't have anything from my old job..." or " I cant fix that, I fixed that at company Y and they own the IP to that fix."

        All of you rape and pillage IP when you leave. Accidentally or on purpose, you do it. Being a moron and trying to SELL that or taking it with malicious intent? that is the kicker. if he had it because that is how his desk was packed up for him then it's not his fault, nor is he liable for anything.

        Except, in this case, he joined AMD while still employed at Intel. He joined AMD June 2. He gave Intel his resignation JUne 11 (and used vacation instead of working through the 2 weeks). Thus he was under the employment of both companies (who we all know are competitors) for a period of time. This goes beyond innocent "rape and pillage" of IP. At least that's part of your cleanup of your stuff, which you do before you start employment at your new employer. And anything you take is covered under NDA or other confidentiality agreeement. But this guy could not only have taken stuff from Intel and gave them to AMD, he could've (unlikely, but possible) taken stuff from AMD given them to Intel, too, and done it quite surreptitiously.

        AMD would have to fire this guy because this would "taint" him, and by association, AMD, who then might have to battle Intel in some lawsuit alleging they used some of those designs in their next processor. AMD might not have, but because this guy has been working at both companies, it's very hard to tell, and AMD really has to do some house cleaning on anything this guy touched to make sure it's clean, and even then, it's hard to tell (the irony is, they can't tell if they're using that stolen IP without knowing what the stolen IP is...

      • I have yet to meet someone that says, "I just left company X, no I don't have anything from my old job..." or " I cant fix that, I fixed that at company Y and they own the IP to that fix."

        Really? Cause if I were being asked that by a new employer, that's exactly what I'd say. It would very likely be a lie, but I wouldn't cop to it because 1) it might make them paranoid about me, and 2) they paid me for my skills, not for stealing shit from elsewhere.

        Most of the code I have from previous workplaces is comp

      • by shuz (706678)
        I find that as I've moved jobs my skill set has improved enough that I can reproduce work from a previous position in a fraction of the time. There is no need to keep scripts, processes, proprietary information etc. Also most businesses have a distinct way of doing things that would complicate a different business. That is why most business to business applications and processes are full of problems.
  • Oh No! (Score:2, Funny)

    by yttrstein (891553)
    NINTEEN Computer Aided Design Designs? We should have never approved that New Technology Technology.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bigstrat2003 (1058574) *
      You're trying to be funny, but "CAD designs" isn't redundant. The two instances of the word "design" refer to different definitions of the word (design = plan, vs design = process of making a design), so they aren't redundant.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      *cough*Computer aided DRAFTING*cough*. Drafting is "process of drawing", while design tells me... well, it is a finished design. Fully qualified, "CAD design" becomes "Computer aided process of drawing design".
      • by afidel (530433)
        No, CAD stands for Computer Aided Design and CAM stands for Computer Aided Manufacturing. It's been that way since forever. Out of 3 pages of Google results for define:CAD only one definition agrees with you on drafting.
  • by segedunum (883035) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @11:23AM (#25025885)
    So Intel pull a Ferrari and take a leaf out of spygate?

    http://www.metro.co.uk/sport/formulaone/article.html?in_article_id=65980&in_page_id=58 [metro.co.uk]
  • by gentimjs (930934)
    What isnt mentioned is that he took the goods from intel because the guys at AMD needed a laugh!

    *ducks*
  • Didn't this come out days ago?
  • by gillbates (106458) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @12:00PM (#25026393) Homepage Journal

    Is that I frequently have ideas at home. And write them down. And later use them at work.

    Would the discovery of these documents in my home constitute evidence of "stealing trade secrets" in the eyes of my employer? If I decided to leave my current employer and work for the competition, would those hobby projects of mine be a liability?

    I'm just curious, because I do quite a bit of independent development, and from time to time, it becomes valuable at work.

    • by faloi (738831) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @12:08PM (#25026503)
      It depends on your contract. Some employers have, essentially, an "all your ideas are belong to us" type clause. Anything you work on, on or off the clock, is their property. At one company I worked for, even if it was something that wasn't related to the industry, you submitted it to their lawyers and applied for leave to pursue it on your own if the company wasn't interested. Essentially, they give you your IP back.
  • by east coast (590680) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @12:01PM (#25026403)
    How do people think that they're going to pass this along and not get caught by some method?

    Hell, after the Coca Cola incident [cnn.com] I would be fearful of having my new employer even know I have such information, let alone use it in some manner.
  • For an engineering document. Could just be one PDF spec document for a small processor, or maybe an instruction set manual.

    19 CAD designs? Do they mean 19 full chip designs or just 19 verilog source files?

    I'd be curious to know how big this thing really is. I bet that I could have that amount of cruft lying around somewhere from one of my previous jobs.

  • . . . to Intel gathering ;)
  • At least we now know AMD is hiring again!
  • The only way not to steal IP from a previous employer is to have your brain erased.

    Forget the stupid Ben Afflek movie, read the Philip K. Dick short story "Paycheck."

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