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posted by martyb on Saturday July 08 2017, @05:11PM   Printer-friendly
from the trade-secrets-are-not-for-trading dept.

Google's Waymo is dropping most of its patent claims against Uber, narrowing the case's focus to one patent and the many trade secrets allegedly stolen:

Waymo, Alphabet Inc.'s self-driving car division, dropped three of four patent-infringement claims in its lawsuit against Uber Technologies Inc. over the startup's autonomous vehicle program.

Waymo's decision to include patent claims in its complaint against Uber was a surprise move for Google parent Alphabet, which normally prides itself on limiting patent fights. The bulk of Waymo's case is not over patents, but trade secrets.

Waymo alleges that Uber stole trade secrets from Waymo when Anthony Levandowski, who worked for Waymo, downloaded 14,000 files to his personal computer and then joined Uber to lead the startup's driverless car program. Uber fired Levandowski in late May. The executive has invoked his constitutional right against self-incrimination and has refused to testify in the case, hindering Uber's ability to defend itself against Waymo's claims.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco has asked Waymo to narrow its more than 100 trade secrets claims to fewer than 10 to put in front of a jury. In a June 7 hearing, he also said, "I want to reiterate to the plaintiff here that you should think a lot about just dropping the patent part of this case."

Also at Business Insider and Recode. Vanity Fair reports on a legal filing in the case that includes emails sent by Uber's former CEO Travis Kalanick. They depict him desperately seeking a partnership with Google and reacting to talk about Google launching an autonomous ride-hailing service.

Google Spin-Off Waymo Accuses Uber of Stealing Self-Driving Tech
Uber Could Face Injunction Stopping It From Testing Driverless Cars
Lyft and Waymo (Google) Team Up for Autonomous Cars
Uber Fires Former Google Engineer Anthony Levandowski

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Google Spin-Off Waymo Accuses Uber of Stealing Self-Driving Tech 2 comments

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Waymo was launched by Google last year.

The 28-page lawsuit focuses on Otto, a self-driving trucking company that Uber acquired last year. The suit charges that Anthony Levandowski, a former Google employee, downloaded 14,000 "highly confidential" files describing self-driving technology research and brought them to Otto, which he co-founded.

Parts of the lawsuit read like a spy novel. Waymo alleges Levandowski, who now works at Uber, used special software to access the files and reformatted his computer to cover his tracks. It says Uber used the information after it acquired Otto.

The lawsuit complicates the already-difficult relationship between the two companies. GV, Alphabet's venture capital arm, invested in Uber in 2013. It was one of the firm's most high-profile deals.

"Our parent company Alphabet has long worked with Uber in many areas, and we didn't make this decision lightly," Waymo said in a blog post. "However, given the overwhelming facts that our technology has been stolen, we have no choice but to defend our investment and development of this unique technology."

"We take the allegations made against Otto and Uber employees seriously," an Uber spokeswoman said. "We will review this matter carefully."

Self-driving cars are a red-hot area of research in the automotive industry. Autonomous vehicles show the potential to greatly reduce or even eliminate the tens of thousands of deaths that occur on US roads every year. The technology may also reduce traffic jams, a major fuel and time waster in US cities. Equipment suppliers, start-ups and big tech companies, in addition to automakers, are all developing self-driving car technology.

-- submitted from IRC

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Uber Could Face Injunction Stopping It From Testing Driverless Cars 8 comments

Uber has been accused of stealing trade secrets from Google's self-driving car division Waymo. Now, Uber may face an injunction forcing it to immediately halt its testing of driverless cars in Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Arizona:

Two giants in self-driving car technology will face each other in court on Wednesday. Ride-sharing firm Uber is accused of stealing trade secrets from Waymo - the company spun out from Google's self-driving division.

[...] Both sides will make their case to a judge in San Francisco on Wednesday morning in a bitter dispute that has become the talking point of Silicon Valley. A judge will consider granting a preliminary injunction that would force Uber to immediately suspend use of the technology while legal proceedings were continuing. In an increasingly angry battle, Waymo has accused Uber of being engaged in a "cover-up".

Look for a ruling soon:

Alsup is not expected to rule immediately on Wednesday, but he may intimate which way he is leaning. At a hearing last month, Alsup warned Uber that it may face an injunction, saying of the evidence amassed by Waymo: "I've never seen a record this strong in 42 years."

Update: The judge in the case has said that he has not seen a "smoking gun" indicating that Uber knew that Anthony Levandowski possessed Waymo trade secrets.

Original Submission

Lyft and Waymo (Google) Team Up for Autonomous Cars 1 comment

Lyft and Waymo have signed a deal to bring autonomous cars into mainstream use:

As the race to bring self-driving vehicles to the public intensifies, two of Silicon Valley's most prominent players are teaming up. Waymo, the self-driving car unit that operates under Google's parent company, has signed a deal with the ride-hailing start-up Lyft, according to two people familiar with the agreement who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. The deal calls for the companies to work together to bring autonomous vehicle technology into the mainstream through pilot projects and product development efforts, these people said.

[...] The deal between Waymo and Lyft has competitive implications for Uber, the world's biggest ride-hailing company, which has recently had to confront a spate of workplace and legal problems. Lyft is a distant No. 2 to Uber among ride-hailing services in the United States, and the two companies are bitter rivals. Waymo is also competing fiercely with Uber in the creation of technology for autonomous cars and is embroiled in a lawsuit over what it says is Uber's use of stolen Waymo trade secrets to develop such technology.

Details about the deal between Waymo and Lyft were scant. The companies declined to comment on what types of products would be brought to market as a result of it or when the public might see the fruits of the collaboration.

Also at The Verge.

Previously: Uber and Lyft: Settlements, Racism, and Auto Partnerships
Google Waymo Vehicles to Hit the Road This Month
GM and Lyft to Test Thousands of Self-Driving Electric Cars in 2018
Google Spin-Off Waymo Accuses Uber of Stealing Self-Driving Tech
Lyft Pays $27M to Settle Driver Classification Suit
Uber Tracked Lyft Drivers
Uber Engineer Must Reveal Reason for Pleading the Fifth to Judge
Uber Could Face Injunction Stopping It From Testing Driverless Cars

Original Submission

Uber Fires Former Google Engineer Anthony Levandowski 2 comments

Uber Fires Former Google Engineer at Heart of Self-Driving Dispute

Uber said Tuesday that it had fired Anthony Levandowski, a star engineer brought in to lead the company's self-driving automobile efforts who was accused of stealing trade secrets when he left a job at Google.

What Mr. Levandowski did when he quit Google to start his own company, Otto, which was acquired by Uber for nearly $700 million last year, is the key question in a closely watched lawsuit that pits one of the world's most powerful companies against Uber, a richly financed up-and-comer.

The stakes are enormous for both businesses. Google was a pioneer in autonomous car technology and has spent nearly a decade and hundreds of millions of dollars on its effort, which is now run through Waymo, a subsidiary of Google's parent company, Alphabet. And Travis Kalanick, Uber's chief executive, has said the future of his ride-hailing company, privately valued at nearly $70 billion, hinges on work being done to create cars that can drive themselves.

The dismissal of one of Uber's most prized technical talents also points to the risks of the star engineering culture that has emerged in Silicon Valley in recent years, leading to giant paydays for a small group of employees.

No Johnny Cab for you.

Original Submission

Uber's Former CEO Travis and Google Co-Founder Both Face Deposition in Trade Secrets Case 2 comments

Ahead of a deposition in the Waymo v. Uber case, Travis Kalanick has hired the San Francisco-based litigator Melinda Haag:

Uber's former chief executive, Travis Kalanick, has hired the former top federal prosecutor in San Francisco to represent him ahead of a deposition in a high-profile trade secrets case against Alphabet's Waymo self-driving car unit, the attorney's firm said on Wednesday.

Melinda Haag, who served as U.S. attorney in Northern California under President Barack Obama, now practices white-collar defense law at the Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe firm. She and a partner, Walter Brown, are representing Kalanick, Orrick spokesman Howard Mintz said.

Mintz declined to discuss the scope of Orrick's representation of Kalanick, who currently serves on Uber's board. A Kalanick representative could not immediately be reached for comment.

Kalanick is scheduled to be interviewed under oath by Waymo lawyers this week, Waymo attorney David Perlson said at a court hearing on Wednesday.

Kalanick isn't the only one facing deposition:

In the latest hearing in the Uber vs. Waymo lawsuit on Wednesday, San Francisco district judge William Alsup addressed Uber's complaint that Google co-founder Sergey Brin is trying to avoid deposition.

Alsup said, "you go back and tell that guy he better show up," after voicing frustration at Alphabet executives claiming they are "too busy." Brin is currently the president of Alphabet, the holding company that includes both Google and Waymo, the self-driving car unit that was spun out of Google.

Also at Bloomberg.

Previously: Waymo Drops Three of Four Patent Claims Against Uber

Original Submission

Waymo v. Uber Continues, Will Not Move to Arbitration 1 comment

Uber's attempt to move Waymo's trade secrets lawsuit out of an appeals court and to an arbitrator has not succeeded:

Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo can proceed with a planned October trial over claims Uber Technologies Inc. stole trade secrets for self-driving vehicles after a U.S. appeals court declined to punt the case to an arbitrator and rejected an effort to keep Waymo from seeing critical evidence.

Uber had argued the dispute should be considered in secret before an arbitrator because the heart of Waymo's allegations are related to the actions of engineer Anthony Levandowski, a former employee of both companies. Uber's appeal was rejected Wednesday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, as was Levandowski's request that Waymo not be allowed to see a report by a cyberforensics firm that looked into Uber's purchase of his company, Otto LLC.

Levandowski's employment contract with Waymo included a broad provision that any disputes would go before an arbitrator. Waymo never sued Levandowski; instead the question of whether he violated that contract is before an arbitrator, with a hearing scheduled for April. A three-judge appeals court panel said that requirement didn't extend to Uber. Waymo pledged not to rely on the Levandowski employment contract in its case, though Uber argued that wasn't a realistic promise.

Also at Reuters.

Previously: Waymo Drops Three of Four Patent Claims Against Uber
Uber's Former CEO Travis and Google Co-Founder Both Face Deposition in Trade Secrets Case
Text Messages Between Uber's Travis Kalanick and Anthony Levandowski Released

Original Submission

Waymo's Case Against Uber "Shrinks" After Trade Secret Claim Thrown Out 2 comments

Google/Alphabet/Waymo's case against Uber has been dealt a setback following a number of unfavorable rulings:

A federal judge threw out a key trade-secret theft claim in the Alphabet Inc.'s unit lawsuit alleging that one of its former engineers schemed with the ride-hailing giant to steal critical know-how. The judge also rejected a technical analysis by one of Waymo's expert witnesses. In addition, he dismissed one of the defendants in the case, which will put more pressure on Waymo to prove that Uber itself engaged in misconduct independent of whether the engineer misappropriated proprietary information.

Legal experts said they can't read too much into the judge's ruling narrowing the list of trade secrets to be presented to a jury to eight from nine because many of the court documents describing the details of each secret are sealed from public view. The dismissal of the one claim won't reduce the $1.86 billion in damages Waymo is seeking because that figure is based on a different trade secret. Waymo was originally pursuing 121 separate claims but was ordered by Alsup to whittle them down to keep the case from becoming unwieldy.

[...] A spokesman for Uber said the rulings point to Waymo's "ever-shrinking case." [...] Waymo said in an emailed statement its inspections of Uber's devices, photos and digital drawings show Uber is using Waymo's trade secrets and copied its LiDAR designs "down to the micron."

Also at Recode and Ars Technica.

Previously: Waymo Drops Three of Four Patent Claims Against Uber
Text Messages Between Uber's Travis Kalanick and Anthony Levandowski Released
Waymo v. Uber Continues, Will Not Move to Arbitration
Alphabet Seeking $2.6 Billion in Damages From Uber

Related: Alphabet Leads $1 Billion Round of Investment in Lyft

Original Submission

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