Mercedes suing Ferrari-bound employee for stealing confidential data

Mercedes is taking legal action against an employee it has accused of stealing confidential data and information ahead of a move to Formula 1 rival Ferrari

Mercedes suing Ferrari-bound employee for stealing confidential data

In a High Court filing, revealed by Bloomberg and seen by Autosport, Benjamin Hoyle, due to join Ferrari at the start of next year, is being sued by Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP).

HPP is demanding Hoyle, who was employed in December 2012 as one of four team leaders in the company's F1 engineering department, be denied joining Ferrari or another F1 team until after the conclusion of the 2016 F1 season.

HPP is also demanding Hoyle hand over all documents relating to the matter, be served an injunction preventing him from using any information, as well as pay costs relating to investigation work carried out, compensation and legal fees.

Hoyle served notice on his contract, due for expiry at the end of this month, in May 2014, soon after which HPP became aware he intended to join Ferrari.

In April 16 this year Hoyle was informed, both verbally and via letter, he would be assigned to non-F1 projects, switching over to Mercedes' DTM programme, as HPP "wished to manage the intellectual property" he was exposed to.

Hoyle was provided with a new, wiped-clean laptop, email address and log-in details, denying him access to anything related to F1, and HPP restricted the areas of the building to which he was allowed.

HPP claims after this date, and prior to September 24 and after employing expert forensic computer analysts, Hoyle removed hardcopy documents containing confidential F1 information.

It is alleged Hoyle also searched for and saved on a laptop confidential F1 information stored on HPP's servers that included: a race report from this year's Hungarian Grand Prix; mileage and damage data relating to HPP's F1 engines from this season up until September 14, and files containing the code to decrypt raw race data files.

It is further alleged Hoyle also saved files related to the compressor performance of HPP's F1 engines, along with encrypted raw data files containing very detailed data about engine performance used to produce race reports.

The information was also apparently saved on Hoyle's personal mobile phone, micro SD cards, a tablet and an external hard drive.

Hoyle is also believed to have uploaded a confidential F1 document to an external website, as well as "read, reviewed, looked at or otherwise gained access to confidential F1 information".

HPP further claims Hoyle took "anti-forensic steps to conceal the fact he had saved" such information to his laptop, such as deleting files, running a disk fragmenter programme, and copying large numbers of innocuous files to 'fill' the hard drive, so overwriting any deleted material.

All of the above actions breach numerous clauses in Hoyle's contract, with HPP claiming they "were calculated to destroy or seriously damage the relationship of trust and confidence between the parties without reasonable or proper cause".

In particular, HPP claim that due to Hoyle's "unlawful conduct" both he and Ferrari "have potentially gained an unlawful advantage".

"Legal action is underway involving Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains Ltd and an employee," Mercedes said in a statement.

"The company has taken the appropriate legal steps to protect its intellectual property."

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