Alphabet-owned Waymo is now asking a judge to stop Uber from using the self-driving car tech it claims the ride hailing company stole, in what is the latest development in a legal feud between the two companies. This news follows Waymo’s suit against Uber that was filed late last month over theft of key self-driving technology…
The legal battle began when former Waymo employees allegedly stole valuable information before leaving to found Otto, a self-driving truck startup that has since been purchased by Uber. Waymo also said at the time it filed suit that it found out via an unexpected email that some parts of Uber’s LIDAR tech — particularly its circuit board — is very similar to that which Waymo developed.
Uber unsurprisingly denied Waymo’s claim that it stole self-driving technology, but that isn’t stopping Waymo from fiercely defending what it claims is stolen IP. The Alphabet-owned company filed for the injunction today alongside testimonies it hopes will back up its request.
After a forensic investigation into the matter, Waymo filed sworn testimony in federal court today from its security engineer Gary Brown stating that Anthony Levandowski, as well as two other to-be Otto employees, downloaded over 14,000 files (almost 10GB worth) of intellectual property to personal devices before leaving the company. We learn today that these files also included a list of vendors that make LIDAR components.
The testimonies today also included mention of Levandowski’s many involvements with his new company before actually leaving Google to found Otto. One in particular came from Pierre-Yves Droz, a Google engineer who worked with Levandowski, who also touched on the fact that Levandowski had been seen at Uber’s HQ in January of last year (via Re/code):
We were having dinner at a restaurant near the office, and [Levandowski] told me that it would be nice to create a new self-driving car startup and that Uber would be interested in buying the team responsible for the LiDAR we were developing at Google.
Later in January 2016, a colleague told me that Mr. Levandowski had been seen at Uber’s headquarters in mid January. I asked Mr. Levandowski about this, and he admitted he had met with Uber, and the reason he was there was that he was looking for investors for his new company.
In a statement, Waymo had this to say:
Competition should be fueled by innovation in the labs and on the roads, not through unlawful actions. Given the strong evidence we have, we are asking the court step in to protect intellectual property developed by our engineers over thousands of hours and to prevent any use of that stolen IP.
One interesting aspect of this legal battle is that Google Ventures — a sister company to Waymo — has a long-known-about investment in the ride hailing company. It’s yet to be seen how that will affect the dispute, however. Uber has said that it considered Waymo’s claims and “determined them to be a baseless attempt to slow down a competitor,” and that it intends to “vigorously defend against them in court.”