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SolarCity, SunPower tangle over accusations of stolen trade secrets

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SolarCity, SunPower tangle over accusations of stolen trade secrets

Solar project developers SolarCity Corp. and SunPower Corp. are locked in a legal fight over theftallegations.

In back-to-back complaints filed in U.S. District Court forthe Northern District of California, the competitors accused each other ofstealing trade secrets they said are central to their competitive advantage.

SunPower said SolarCity misappropriated manufacturing technologyto make high-efficiency solar panels, which can drive down costs by allowingcustomers to generate more electricity using less equipment.

A day later, SolarCity said proprietary customer data wasstolen by a former employee who went to work for SunPower, and that SunPowerappeared to have used it to copy SolarCity's commercial storage contracts andtarget existing and prospective customers.

The accusations highlight two of the key challenges facingthe distributed solar sector: cutting expenses with better equipment and lowercustomer-acquisition costs and pairing solar with energy storage to create amore valuable product.

A SunPower spokeswoman did not immediately respond to arequest for comment Sept. 29.

A SolarCity spokesman previously said the complaint againstthe company is a "meritless" diversion that was filed after SolarCitynotified SunPower on Sept. 23 that its former employee appeared to be usingstolen data in her new job.

"SunPower takes the protection of confidential andtrade secret information — both its own and that of its competitors —seriously, and will take all appropriate steps necessary to ensure that bothits information and that of [SolarCity] are protected," SunPoweremployment counsel Jennifer Rappoport wrote to SolarCity on Sept. 26, the sameday SunPower filed its complaint.

SolarCity is the target of a by , which manufactureselectric vehicles and energy storage systems.