After a lengthy legal process, the California district court has reached a verdict in the case involving Xiaolang Zhang, a former Apple employee. Zhang has been sentenced to four months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and has been ordered to pay $146,984 in damages.
This legal saga began in 2018 when the FBI and Apple initiated a joint investigation into allegations of trade secret theft. It was discovered that Zhang had allegedly stolen sensitive company information related to Project Titan, Apple’s codename for its upcoming smart electric vehicle (EV) project.
After leaving the United States and relocating to China, Zhang began working for XMotors, a Chinese startup specializing in autonomous vehicle technologies. It was during this time that Apple first noticed Zhang’s suspicious behavior and took action.
Substantial evidence of Zhang’s illicit activities emerged from his network activity at Apple and his use of Apple devices. It was revealed that Zhang, as an engineer involved in Project Titan, had accessed and taken numerous files from Apple’s databases, including a 25-page document containing engineering schematics for a circuit board designed for autonomous vehicles.
Initially denying the charges against him in 2018, Zhang later changed his plea and pleaded guilty in August 2022. This case underscores the seriousness with which companies like Apple take the protection of their intellectual property and trade secrets, and the consequences individuals may face for violating those protections.