Google is Suing Uber for Stealing its Trade Secrets

Lynne Hanson
February 25, 2017

In a lawsuit filed Thursday, Waymo, the company formerly known as Google's self-driving vehicle project, alleges that a former employee who now heads Uber's autonomous driving unit downloaded more than 14,000 "highly confidential and proprietary" files before leaving to start his own company in 2015. Otto was founded by Anthony Levandowski, the engineer that Waymo has charged with stealing its trade secrets. They go onto note that Alphabet - Waymo's parent company - has worked with Uber in plenty of areas, so they didn't make this decision lightly, but knew it was a decision that had to be made. Those suspicions grew in December when a Waymo employee was copied on an email that included Otto files.

Hundreds of Waymo engineers have spent thousands of hours, and our company has invested millions of dollars to design a highly specialized and unique LiDAR system.

Waymo said that before Levandowski's resignation in January 2016 from Google, whose self-driving unit was renamed Waymo in December, he downloaded over 14,000 confidential files, including Lidar circuit board designs, thereby allowing Uber and Otto to fast-track its self-driving technology. The design was nearly identical to Waymo's unique LiDAR design, it claimed. And it may have been planning this all along, as Waymo believes Levandowski was having meetings with Uber two weeks before he suddenly resigned from the company. The company has hired lawyers including former Attorney General Eric Holder to conduct a review into the harassment allegations. Once inside, he downloaded 9.7 GB of Waymo's highly trade secrets and confidential files including design files, testing documents and blueprints.

The filing says Waymo's LIDAR can pick up hazards a human may not detect, and calls its sensors the most advanced and cost-effective around. The lawsuit alleges that Mr. Levandowski "downloading 14,000 proprietary and highly confidential design files" during his time as a Google employee.

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The suit, Waymo LLC v. Uber Technologies Inc., 17-cv-00939 in the US District Court of the Northern District of California, asks for a jury trial and seeks unspecified damages and legal fees as well as an injunction on Otto and Uber from using the technology.

Uber has denied allegations in a lawsuit by Waymo that it stole some self-driving technology, calling them "a baseless attempt to slow down a competitor".

Waymo got hold of an image of Uber's laser circuit board after a supplier emailed it to them, according to Forbes.

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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