17 October 2013
Reporter: Franki Webb

Ex-contractor barred from releasing DOE replica software

A former employee of Battelle Memorial Institute’s Battelle Energy Alliance is being accused of stealing trade secrets as well as risking national security.

Battelle filed the complaint at U.S. District Court, District of Idaho in May 2013 against Corey Thuen.

Battelle, which operates the Idaho National Laboratory, is owned by US Energy Department (DOE. The alliance developed software that is aimed at detecting suspicious activity on a computer network, which could leave power stations and grids open to cyber hackers and other threats, according to the 10 October complaint.

Defendants created Visdom by copying elements, architecture and code from Sophia, in breach of copyright law and Thuen's contractual obligations to Battelle," the complaint states.

"Thuen removed from INL property an unauthorised copy of Sophia from which defendants created Visdom. Because Battelle's business model requires it to license the software, defendants' actions will destroy Battelle's business and substantial investment in the development of Sophia: Battelle will be unable to license a product that is being given away license-free by Southfork."

Corey Thuen was one of five DOE laboratory contractors who helped develop the software, which was named Sophia after the Greek goddess of wisdom.

Battelle said it couldn’t commercialise the Sophia software so initiated a bidding process to choose a third-party partner to receive the exclusive licence for the product.

Thuen started a company called Southfork Security to bid on the licensing rights to the product. According to the complaint, he was required to sign a conflict-of-interest agreement barring the use of personal profit and gain of any non-public information that relates to Sophia, which he obtained during his employment at Battelle.

He took time off from Battelle to focus on developing the new company, he then submitted licensing proposal before withdrawing from the bidding process, stated in the court papers.

On 1 May, Southfork began marketing a product entitled Wisdom. Battelle asserts that this product is a replica of Sophia, and its intended to speed up a pending patent application at the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Battelle sued Southfork and requested an injunction for Visdom, and for the destruction of all infringing content that copies Sophia. Battlelle also requested damages and the removal of Southfork’s website and the confiscation of Thuen computer and hard drives.

On 15 October, Judge Lynn Winmil granted an injunction of Visdom and the confiscation of Thuen hard drive to a forensic expert retained by Battelle. The court has set a hearing for 17 October so Thuen could respond to the accusations.

Southfork websites states: “Southfork Security is a new startup in the ICS/SCADA security space made up of cybersecurity researchers formerly at Idaho National Laboratory. We worked there, hacked things, and made some cool tools. Now we're doing it on our own. If you liked what we did there, you'll love what we do here.”

Battelle is also seeking misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of contract, tortious interference with prospective economic advantage, unfair competition, conversion and unjust enrichment.

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