CIA-backed big data firm Palantir says secrets pinched by investor

Accuses advisor of 'brazen scheme to claim highly confidential secrets as his own'

Palantir Technologies says an advisor to the company stole its trade secrets and then tried to use them to claim trademarks and patents.

Privately-held Palantir says it makes “data fusion platforms for integrating, managing, and securing any kind of data, at massive scale.” The company is known to number United States intelligence agencies among its clientele, and has also taken investments from In-Q-Tel, a venture capital firm established by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to find useful tech for the intelligence community.

The CIA may therefore be interested in this filing (PDF) with the Superior Court of the State of California that alleges a chap named Marc L. Abramowitz “ stole … secrets, engaged in methodical deception of Palantir’s senior executives, and made false claims to the United States Patent and Trademark Office.”

The filing says Abramowitz was a “respected confidant and advisor to Palantir and its senior executives”, thanks to entities he has dealings with having made early investments in the company. Palantir says Abramowitz visited its offices regularly and was able to indulge in casual chats with management and staff, often becoming privy to as-yet-undisclosed plans and innovations.

Palantir was diligent and concluded “express written agreements” regarding the confidentiality of his discussions with the company.

Yet Palantir contends that in 2014 Abramowitz filed three patents for analytics, despite having “... no notable history as an inventor or patent innovator in the data analysis area.” Palantir says the content of all three were based on its work.

“The patent applications are not the only indication that Abramowitz has misappropriated information and access to attempt to profit at Palantir’s expense,” the filing contends.

“Palantir’s company name is inspired by the 'seeing stones' referenced in The Lord of the Rings. Without Palantir’s knowledge, Abramowitz filed for a trademark on the mark 'Shire,' which is also referenced in The Lord of the Rings as the place where one of the main characters lives. It is clear that Abramowitz has filed this trademark application in an attempt to further improperly associate himself with what he views as the Palantir brand.”

Palantir says its information security efforts are substantial and impressive, so it's confident that Abramowitz is the problem and not an unknown third party.

The filing also notes that Palantir is in receipt of correspondence from an investment company called KT4 Partners LLC known to have ties to Abramowitz. In those letters KT4 claims that as a substantial investor it has rights to access Palantir intellectual property. Palantir's not keen on that claim and it looks like letters between the two parties aren't sorting things out.

So off to court they go!

Palantir thinks it has actions for breach of contract, breach of a good faith relationship and violation of California competition laws.

The software company wants a jury trial.

KT4 is a Delaware corporation and records of the entity list only a provider of incorporation services outfit and a post office box. The Register has attempted to contact the incorporation company to seek comment from KT4. ®


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