Google Accuses Uber of a "Cover-Up Scheme" to Steal Trade Secrets

  • Google Accuses Uber of a

Google Accuses Uber of a "Cover-Up Scheme" to Steal Trade Secrets

In a court hearing in San Francisco on Wednesay, Google's lawyers sought to portray Otto, the startup company founded by a former Google engineer, as nothing more than a front company created to help Uber catch up in the highly competitive self-driving auto field. In February, Waymo filed a lawsuit against Otto, the self-driving-truck start-up Uber bought a year ago, accusing its co-founder, former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski of stealing Waymo's proprietary sensor technology and taking it to Uber.

But for Waymo to succeed in its case, which is against Uber, not Levandowski, it needs to prove that Uber knew Levandowski stole the Waymo documents. Waymo has asked for a temporary injunction blocking Uber's self-driving vehicle efforts; such an order would affect hundreds of Uber's highly skilled engineers.

In the latest hearing Wednesday at a Federal courthouse in San Francisco, Waymo asked Federal Judge William Alsup to order a preliminary injunction that could temporarily shutter Uber's self-driving vehicle program. The origin of the dispute was a deal last summer when Uber spent $680m to buy Otto, a self-driving lorry firm.

A judge will consider granting a preliminary injunction that would force Uber to immediately suspend use of the technology while legal proceedings were continuing.

Referring to Anthony Levandowski, the former Waymo manager at the center of the case, Alsup said, "I'm listening for proof that would show that Uber was aware that he had downloaded the information".

Uber Technologies Inc. began fighting for the survival of its self-driving auto program today in a court battle that could have far-reaching consequences on the future of the budding autonomous vehicle industry.

Uber, the ride-hailing organization has been an aspirant of self-driving cars.

Self-driving cars are an obsession of the founders of Google, one in which they've invested billions of dollars over nearly a decade. Waymo's lawsuit against Uber is one of the most tangible manifestations of the enmity between the two. The company, though still growing strongly, is losing hundreds of millions of dollars a quarter, according to information the company released last month.

Analysts say that an injunction could hit Uber's valuation, and put a significant dent in its plans for the future. So far, it has defended itself by insisting that the apparently stolen documents are irrelevant, as none of Waymo's technology has made its way into Uber's work. Uber, which began working on self-driving tech six years after Google, now has self-driving tests underway in Arizona, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco.

Despite the pricey acquisition, Uber claims that none of the files Levandowski took from Waymo were used in developing their driverless auto technology.

Waymo has said Levandowski, who until last week was head of Uber's self-driving auto program, stole more than 14,000 confidential documents before leaving his job at Waymo. Levandowski left Waymo to found Otto in January 2016, which Uber acquired in August of past year.

Alsup may intimate which way he is leaning on the injunction request.

Uber further argues that there's no basis for an injunction, particularly since Levandowski has already been sidelined from any work on lidar at the company.

"You're left to assume the worst", said Elizabeth Rowe, an intellectual property professor at University of Florida Levin College of Law. Uber had "nothing to hide", he argued, and would make the company's controversial CEO Travis Kalanick available for deposition. And Levandowski is invoking his Fifth Amendment right to avoid answering questions in the case. If Google's accusations are proven and turn out to be true, according to experts, it will be a big blow to Uber.