Canoo has come forward to accuse many former employees of reportedly stealing trade secrets as they worked to start a competing electric vehicle company. The unique EV startup says the ex-employees engaged in “corporate espionage,” and it's now moved forward with suing them.
For those unfamiliar with Canoo, it's an EV startup that surfaced in 2017 with a platform to produce multi-purpose vehicles. The brand's plans include an electric pickup truck, delivery vehicles, and "lifestyle" vehicles.
Canoo already has some $2 billion in pre-orders for its vehicles, but it has been losing employees. In fact, several former Canoo workers have moved on to start their own EV startup called Harbinger. According to Electrek, recent filings reveal that Canoo has officially launched a lawsuit targeting the ex-employees for taking trade secrets to the new rival automaker and breaching separation agreements.
Canoo filed a 58-page lawsuit in California on December 22, 2022. The lawsuit targets not only former Canoo employees, but also employees from other EV startups. Harbinger is being sued as a company, as is its CEO, CTO, and COO.
Harbinger unveiled its own revolutionary EV platform in September, which the court filings suggest it developed based on inside information related to Canoo's electric vehicle platform technology. The lawsuit not only accuses the employees of taking the trade secrets illegally, but also alleges that they did so with pre-planned intent to use the proprietary information to compete against it. The filing reads as follows, via Electrek:
"This is a case of corporate espionage by a group of serial grifters who infiltrated Canoo to steal its intellectual property."
Electrek notes that the filing makes it clear that the former Canoo employees "always intended" to steal the trade secrets and use them to compete. The lawsuit also claims that Harbinger recruited workers to leave Canoo and join the new rival.
"Using Canoo’s confidential information and trade secrets related to Canoo’s employees, including their skills and training, Harbinger strategically recruited at least 33 of Canoo’s employees to join Harbinger, making up approximately 66% of Harbinger’s total workforce."
Of course, Harbinger and its employees insist that none of this is true. The company's co-founders say they have been acting with integrity and would never have become involved in something that would lead to a "meritless lawsuit." Harbinger calls Canoo's claims baseless and says it will defend itself "vigorously."