In the high-tech world, secrets are everything. Being able to protect your own ideas can mean the difference in millions or perhaps even billions of dollars. In San Francisco, an epic battle between Waymo and Uber is unfolding. Soon, jurors will hear the case in which Waymo accuses Uber of stealing some of their technology.
Even though many have never heard of Waymo, it’s actually one of the companies that did the best during the dot-com boom. It’s a spinoff of Google, a fact which is key to this case. Now as its own company, it focuses on self-driving cars.
Anthony Levandowski was one of the early engineers who worked on Google’s self-driving car team. Over several years, Google developed technology related to light detection and ranging (LIDAR). “Lidar”, as it’s called in the industry, allows autonomous vehicles to precisely detect the presence of objects.
Levandowski left Google in January of 2016, along with 14,000 files that he downloaded. He then took the role as the leader of the autonomous vehicle team at Uber, allegedly using stolen information to develop their abilities. Around the same time, he founded his own firm, Ottomotto, which Uber acquired for approximately $680 million in 2016.
Waymo is now bringing a lawsuit against Uber because they claim that Uber stole trade secrets. One of the issues that will come into play is what type of information should be considered trade secrets and what should be considered part of the free flow of ideas.
Levandowski was later fired by Uber in May of 2017. He was let go because he did not cooperate with the company’s legal defense in this case. He is expected to continue to hold steadfast on his position and is predicted to exercise his Fifth Amendment rights if called to the stand.