Mercedes is suing an employee it has accused of stealing confidential data ahead of a move to Formula One rivals Ferrari, a source from the German car manufacturer told AFP on Tuesday.
A filing at London`s High Court shows that Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) is taking legal action against engineer Benjamin Hoyle, who is due to join Ferrari at the start of next year.
HPP is calling for Hoyle, an employee since 2012, to be prevented from joining Ferrari or another F1 team until the end of the 2016 season.
A management source from Mercedes`s F1 team told AFP the move was "strictly defensive" and designed to protect its intellectual property rights as it has no evidence that information has been transmitted to Ferrari.
Mercedes is demanding that Hoyle hand over all documents relating to the matter and be prevented from using any of the information in his possession.
Hoyle joined Mercedes in December 2012 as one of four team leaders in the company`s F1 engineering department and served notice on his contract, due to expire at the end of this month, in May 2014.
Hoyle was assigned to non-F1 projects last April after Mercedes told him it "wished to manage the intellectual property" to which he had access.
He was also given a new, wiped-clean laptop, a new email address and log-in details, while Mercedes restricted the areas of the company`s building that he was allowed to access.
Mercedes alleges that after this date, Hoyle breached clauses in his contract by covertly removing hard-copy documents containing confidential F1-related information.
In a statement, Mercedes said: "A legal action is underway involving Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains Ltd and an employee who is due to leave the company at the end the year.
"The company has taken the appropriate legal steps to protect its intellectual property. We ask for your understanding that we do not wish to comment further on this matter."
The case recalls F1`s `Spygate` affair, which saw McLaren fined $100 million (92 million euros) and banned from the 2007 constructors` championship after Ferrari accused its rivals of stealing technical data.