Uber’s bad year continues, now with a lawsuit over stolen technology.
Waymo is a self-driving car company that emerged from Google last year, and they’ve just filed a lawsuit against Uber and their self-driving truck company Otto, for allegedly stealing the key component to Waymo’s self-driving tech. The lawsuit, which was filed today, accuses a former Google engineer, Anthony Levandowski, of stealing documents. Levandowski, who is now a top Uber executive, left Google to found Otto, taking some 14,000 classified documents with him. Among them, claims Waymo, were schematics for a circuit board and details about Waymo’s radar and LiDAR technology.
Waymo recently posted on Medium to clarify the lawsuit and why it was being filed:
“We found that six weeks before his resignation this former employee, Anthony Levandowski, downloaded over 14,000 highly confidential and proprietary design files for Waymo’s various hardware systems, including designs of Waymo’s LiDAR and circuit board. To gain access to Waymo’s design server, Mr. Levandowski searched for and installed specialized software onto his company-issued laptop. Once inside, he downloaded 9.7 GB of Waymo’s highly confidential files and trade secrets, including blueprints, design files and testing documentation. Then he connected an external drive to the laptop. Mr. Levandowski then wiped and reformatted the laptop in an attempt to erase forensic fingerprints.
Beyond Mr. Levandowki’s actions, we discovered that other former Waymo employees, now at Otto and Uber, downloaded additional highly confidential information pertaining to our custom-built LiDAR including supplier lists, manufacturing details and statements of work with highly technical information.”
Curiously, Waymo wasn’t alerted about the alleged theft until an email was accidentally CC’d to them. The email came from one of Waymo’s LiDAR component manufacturers, which had attached drawings of a similar LiDAR system circuit board by Uber. “This circuit board bears a striking resemblance to Waymo’s own highly confidential and proprietary design and reflects Waymo trade secrets,” The complaint states. “As this email shows, Otto and Uber are currently building and deploying (or intending to deploy) LiDAR systems (or system components) using Waymo’s trade secret designs. This email also shows that Otto and Uber’s LiDAR systems infringe multiple LiDAR technology patents awarded to Waymo.”
Waymo is asking the courts to block Uber and Otto from using the technology. Uber has responded by saying “We take the allegations made against Otto and Uber employees seriously and we will review this matter carefully.”