Uber denies stealing Google technology

Uber says Waymo’s preliminary injunction claim is a ‘misfire

The Google parent company claims that Uber's self-driving head at the center of the case, Anthony Levandowski, stole 14,000 files from Alphabet, where he worked on self-driving technology before leaving to launch autonomous truck startup Otto. He and two other Waymo employees are accused of downloading thousands of confidential files, including lidar circuit board designs, before he left Waymo past year and launched his own robocar startup, Otto, that was acquired by Uber for $680 million.

The self-driving auto division argued that this "calculated theft" of trade secrets netted Otto employees "over half a billion dollars" and allowed Uber to "revive a stalled programme, all at Waymo's expense".

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U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco has ordered Uber to do a more thorough search of its computer systems to see if the documents are in its possession. "Specifically, for purposes of Waymo's motion for preliminary injunction, the Court should issue an adverse inference that the downloaded files were and continue to be used by Uber in the development of its custom LiDAR system". This is because, in a recent court hearing, he invoked the Fifth Amndment, which allows USA citizens to refuse to disclose any information which could put them at risk of self-incrimination. Uber will want to move the case forward so that the employees in question get the blame. "Nor is this an employment dispute between Waymo and Mr Levandowski", reads the opposition. At one point Alsup warned he might go as far as to bar Levandowski from working on Uber's program until the litigation is resolved. Meanwhile, Uber would be starting its preparation for its defense against the allegations by Waymo on Friday. The first is a company called Odin Wave - which Waymo alleges that Levandowski is the owner of - and the second is Tyto Lidar, which Otto acquired in May of 2016.

"Both of [the injunction motion's] central premises - that former Waymo employees brought thousands of confidential Waymo documents to Uber to build a copycat lidar, and that Uber's lidar closely mimics Waymo's single-lens design - are demonstrably false". In a court appearance earlier this week, Uber's lawyer Angela Padilla denied the allegations stating that, if Waymo truly believed they stole the technology, they would have not waited five months to press charges.

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"Frankly, we obviously have a conflict here", Uber's attorney Arturo Gonzalez said to Judge Aslup during a closed-door hearing last week. After conducting its investigation of Levandowski's work computer, the computers of two other people named in the suit and seven randomly chosen employees, Uber only produced 900 documents.

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