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A.I. startup accuses Facebook of stealing its software

March 12, 2020, 8:21 PM UTC

An artificial intelligence startup has accused Facebook of stealing its software and reusing it in its own A.I. projects.

Neural Magic said in lawsuit filed last week that a former employee, Aleksandar Zlateski, took trade secrets to Facebook when he joined the social networking giant in July 2019. 

The startup claims that its stolen technology helps researchers build neural networks—software used in deep learning projects—that can work more efficiently with standard computer processors, or CPUs. Neural Magic alleged that Facebook has since used the startup’s confidential software in its own A.I. projects and has published some of the technology “publicly and for free” on the popular developer service GitHub.

“Neural Magic is the owner of trade secrets that Aleksandar Zlateski and Facebook misappropriated and are now using and disclosing,” the lawsuit said.

In addition to Facebook, Neural Magic has sued Zlateski for allegedly violating his non-disclosure agreements. Neural Magic said it contacted both Facebook and Zlateski to remove its trade secrets from GitHub in Jan. 2020, but the company and the employee have refused to do so.

“Zlateski could disclose (and on information and belief has disclosed) even more to Facebook, for use internally or in future open source releases,” the lawsuit said, “Those continued disclosures would further damage Neural Magic’s business and market opportunities.”

Neural Magic, based in Somerville, Mass., seeks unspecified damages from Facebook and an “injunction against Zlateski and Facebook prohibiting any further use of Neural Magic’s trade secrets.”

A Neural Magic spokesperson told Fortune in an email that it does “not comment on active litigation.”

Facebook declined to comment about the lawsuit.

Neural Magic has raised $20 million from investors including Andreessen Horowitz, New Enterprise Associates, and Pillar VC, according to deal-tracking service PitchBook.

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