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Google Sues Uber For Stealing Self-Driving Car "Secret Recipe"

It's been a tough few weeks for Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. After the #DeleteUber liberal backlash, and having caved to leftists by quitting Trump's advisory council, his company faces investigation and has seen dozens quit this week after sexual harassment allegations. However, things just got turned up to '11' as Alphabet's self-driving car business, Waymo, has sued Uber for stealing trade secrets in the development of autonomous cars.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in San Francisco federal court, accuses several employees of Otto, a self-driving startup Uber acquired in July, of lifting technical information from Google’s autonomous car project. As Bloomberg details, Waymo claims that Otto’s “calculated theft” of Alphabet’s technology earned Otto’s employees more than $500 million. Waymo was inadvertently copied on an e-mail from one of its vendors, which had an attachment showing an Uber LiDAR circuit board that had a striking resemblance to Waymo’s design, according to the complaint. Anthony Levandowski, a former manager at Alphabet’s self-driving car unit, downloaded more than 14,000 proprietary and confidential files before quitting, including the LiDAR circuit board designs, according to the complaint.

“Misappropriating this technology is akin to stealing a secret recipe from a beverage company,” Waymo wrote in a blog post explaining the suit.

Why we’re taking a stand

 

In 2016, Uber bought a six-month old startup called Otto and appointed its founder (a former employee on our self-driving car project) as its head of self-driving technology. At the time, it was reported that Otto’s LiDAR sensor was one of the key reasons Uber acquired the company.

 

Recently, we received an unexpected email. One of our suppliers specializing in LiDAR components sent us an attachment (apparently inadvertently) of machine drawings of what was purported to be Uber’s LiDAR circuit board?—?except its design bore a striking resemblance to Waymo’s unique LiDAR design.

 

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.

 

We believe these actions were part of a concerted plan to steal Waymo’s trade secrets and intellectual property. Months before the mass download of files, Mr. Levandowski told colleagues that he had plans to “replicate” Waymo’s technology at a competitor.

 

There are many more details in our complaint (full details below), which outlines unlawful misappropriation of our trade secrets, patent infringement and unfair competition. We’re seeking an injunction to stop the misappropriation of our designs, return all trade secret information and cease infringing our patents.

A representative from Uber didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Is Uber about to become Theranos 2.0?

Full brief below: