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Waymo Escalates Battle with Uber

Waymo claims former employee stolen intellectual property for autonomous technology.

by on Mar.13, 2017

Waymo is suing Uber to prevent the company from using or selling intellectual property it claims a former Waymo employee stole and gave to Uber.

Waymo, Google’s self-driving vehicle subsidiary, is escalating its legal battle with Uber Technologies and its subsidiary Otto Trucking by asking a federal judge to prevent the car sharing service from using or selling any of the technology that Waymo claims was stolen by a former Google employee who went on to start his own company now owned by Uber.

In documents filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Waymo is seeking a preliminary injunction prohibiting Uber Technologies, Inc., Ottomotto LLC and Otto Trucking LLC .

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The filing would prohibit them “from accessing, using, imitating, copying, disclosing, or making available to any person or entity Waymo’s Asserted Trade Secrets, including but not limited to the Asserted Trade Secrets as embodied in LiDAR systems that contain or are designed to operate with the printed circuit board depicted in the schematic attached as Exhibit 1 to the Declaration of William Grossman or any colorable variation thereof.

Waymo’s motion also also calls for Uber be prevented from “making, using, selling, or offering to sell devices that infringe on the patents held by Google.

(Waymo sues Uber for theft of intellectual property. Click Here for the story.)

The court has tentatively set a hearing on the case for April 27.

Further, Waymo wants the court to force Uber and Otto to return any and all Waymo confidential information in their possession or control, including the more than 14,000 documents “unlawfully taken” from Waymo by “Anthony Levandowski and his colleagues, who also had been employed by Google.”

Waymo's new LiDAR sensors have dropped in price 90% but still cost around $8,000 each.

Waymo asked for an expedited trial on all of the claims set out in the complaint it filed last month. Uber, which is now in the midst of searching for new top executives, has denied Waymo’s claims.

(Uber hires former U.S. Attorney General to investigate harassment claims. Click Here for the story.)

In its latest court filing, Waymo introduced a partially redacted statement from Google’s top security engineer and forensics specialist, in which he described how Levandowski searched Google’s newtwork in December 2015 for login for a document repository which sensitive documents about Googles high-profile self-driving car initiative.

The statement from security expert Gary Brown also stated that Levandowski installed secretive software that allowed him to download in 2015 more than 14,000 Google documents, including designs for the circuit boards underlying the Google LiDAR system.

After leaving Google, Levandowski founded Otto, a company which is the experimental, self-driving commercial vehicles. Uber acquired Otto and hired Levandowski to not head up Otto but also Uber’s self-driving vehicle initiative.

(To see more about Waymo testing its new autonomous system, Click Here.)

The clash between Waymo, which says it has accumulated more than 3 million of driverless miles, and Uber, which started testing its self-driving vehicles in Arizona last month, underscores the intensity of the effort underway to make self-driving cars a reality in the face of major technical and physical challenges.

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