Spygate redux: the Curious Case of Benjamin Hoyle

It seems that Mercedes may have a rogue employee on its hands or a serious case of wrongful prosecution according to the outcome of Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains Limited v Benjamin Hoyle in the High Court of Justice Queen’s Bench Division. Claim No: HQ15X04325.

According to an article at Bloomberg, Mercedes has filed a case against Benjamin Hoyle for stealing proprietary information ahead of employment with Ferrari however the article states that Ferrari are not hiring Hoyle and have no plans to in the near future.

The article says that Hoyle:

“searched for and saved files including a race report from the Hungary 2015 Grand Prix, mileage and damage data relating to Mercedes’ F-1 engines and files containing code required to decrypt raw race data files”

This is according to the case filed and that it was Mercedes understanding that this was all done just prior to his being hired by Ferrari.

the case brings to mind the old Spygate incident with McLaren and Honda but this is entirely different. In fact, I recall Briatore mentioning that it was odd that McLaren would steal information when they could simply do what other teams do and that’s hire the engineer from the other team.

Before you wonder, it’s like hiring Adrian Newey from McLaren and then winning four titles. You can’t put the genie back in the bottle when a person conceives of a idea but the team can claim that idea is their intellectual property and has every right to do so given the egregious nature of Non-disclosure agreements (NDA) and non-compete agreements.

It could be a case of if the ND agreement is too far reaching and prevents the employee from making a living at his/her profession but that is up for the court to decide.

Because he searched, copied and read data doesn’t mean he has it or has given it to Ferrari, who appear to be keeping at arms length from this incident, and his deletion of the data could mean that he realized his mistake and deleted it in order to honor his agreement. Again, something for the courts to determine but Mercedes is clear they feel Ferrari gained and advantage and I wonder if they have evidence that the information was shared with Ferrari?

In my mind it’s Mercedes protecting their IP and sending a message to other employees that simply taking data on a flash drive with you isn’t an option. There is a question of simply placing him on gardening leave which teams do quite often when an engineer announces they are leaving.

I wonder if ben could make a case that getting access to searched files, as Mercedes gave him a new log in restricting access, gave him the impression that it was information he was allowed to read, copy etc? Who knows? Should be an interesting situation nonetheless.

Hat Tip: Bloomberg


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Hiring the engineer from another team seems like a good idea, in theory. The IP would have to remain with the previous company, but what a point does IP begin and learned information end? Would applying mathematical theroms and data interpretation be considered a breach of any contract if the resultant piece is similar to the one designed at the previous company? For example, I’m thinking that development of a rear aero piece for car B cannot be too similar to car A’s if the respective front wings and body panels are different (air flow at the rear is based… Read more »


The Autosport article on this state’s that Hoyle was moved off F1 projects in April this year (on to DTM work). He was given a new laptop, email address and account on the company IT system so that he didn’t have any access to the F1 data while he worked out his notice. That he appears to have deliberately tried to copy data after this is why the case has got this far.

Patrick Chapman

Also I read in another article that MB are trying to keep him out of F1 for at least the 2016 season. This could be their main thrust and are using the so called theft of IP as a springboard to achieve this. Either way, reputations are at stake here.

Patrick Chapman

An excellent and informative article. Thanks for the link MIE.