Details on the SunPower-SolarCity suit follow. Here's the official comment from SolarCity:

SolarCity’s commercial market share has grown significantly in the past few years and this growth threatens SunPower. Over the past few months, following its acquisition by a foreign oil company, a number of SunPower’s best salespeople decided to join SolarCity. SolarCity has created a leading service offering and a dynamic work environment to attract the best people in the industry; just yesterday we were named the 10th most innovative company in the world by Fast Company magazine. SunPower is apparently taking exception to that.
 
SolarCity upholds high standards in operational integrity for itself and its employees. SolarCity takes trade secret issues very seriously and we will ensure that we act in accordance with the law.

SunPower does not comment on pending litigation.

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Article from February 13:

SunPower, the Silicon Valley solar panel efficiency leader, has just sued solar installer and financier SolarCity and five ex-SunPower employees that went to work for the high growth startup. The complaint alleges that defendants Tom Leyden, Matt Giannini, Dan Leary, Felix Aguayo and Alice Cathcart committed computer fraud and stole confidential information from their ex-employer and that SolarCity "knowingly" accepted this information. SunPower has filed a temporary restraining order that can be found here.

Whew. Happy Valentine's Day.

The list of defendants also includes SolarCity. Tom Leyden (Managing Director for SunPower’s East Operations), Matt Giannini, Dan Leary, Felix Aguayo and Alice Cathcart were employees at SunPower's New Jersey and Northern California facilities -- the two most solarized states in the U.S.

According to the legal document, "Aguayo had accessed his company email account after he was terminated" and "had forwarded customer information, price lists, and market reports to his personal email address on or about November 18, 2011."

Also from the document: "The forensic analysis established that shortly before leaving SunPower, defendants Leyden, Giannini, Leary, Aguayo, and Cathcart connected personal USB devices and used them to steal tens of thousands of computer files containing SunPower confidential information and non-confidential proprietary information. These files included at least quotes, deals, proposals, contracts, and files containing forecast analysis, market analysis, and information downloaded from the www.salesforce.com database."

"Leyden also copied highly confidential data from the SunPower database. [...] The data included information about major SunPower customers accounting for $100 million of sales throughout 2011. [...] This information allowed Leyden to recruit SunPower employees, including Leary, Aguayo, and Cathcart."

According to the complaint, all of the defendants copied enormous amounts of data on their last day of employment.

And the punchline: the complaint adds SolarCity "knowingly accepted these stolen computer files" containing confidential SunPower information and that Leyden recruited the other SunPower employees to help SolarCity speed up its commercial sales operations.

The entire complaint can be found online at justia.com. According to that site, "In addition to civil damages and injunctive relief, SunPower also wants to hold the ex-employees criminally liable for violating a California law prohibiting unauthorized computer data access and fraud."

Earlier this month, Reuters reported that SolarCity was preparing to register for an IPO "within a few weeks" for its debut on public markets in the third quarter of this year with a potential value of $1.5 billion, according to Bloomberg.

But nasty lawsuits like this one tend to slow down debuts on public markets. At least until the lawsuits are settled.

We'll be following the case closely.

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(Thanks to Dana Hull and Ed Gunther for the tip.)

Tags: first solar, ip theft, solar, solar panels, solar power, solarcity, sunpower