Recently, Alphabet’s Waymo demanded at least $1 billion in damages and a public apology from ride-hailing giant Uber technologies. These comes as requirements in order to resolve its high-profile trade secret lawsuit against the ride- services company. In the lawsuit, Waymo accused Uber of stealing it’s self-driving car technology to develop their own prior to its trial date which was scheduled to take place some few days ago. Also, Waymo claim that Levandowski downloaded about 14000 confidential files before resigning to develop his own self-driving vehicle company, called Otto, which Uber acquired soon after.
For that reason, Waymo self-driving car unit went further to request that an independent monitor be assigned to ensure Uber does not use Waymo technology in the future. However, Uber has vigorously denied using Waymo’s trade secrets in developing its own system for autonomous driving. They have also rejected the conditions as non-starters as the accurate amount requested by Waymo and the exact time the offer was made could not be learned. Waymo’s strong negotiating power, which has not been previously reported, reflects the company’s confidence in its legal status after months of pretrial victories in a battle which may assist in determining who emerges on the forefront of the fast growing sector of self- driving cars.
The settlement conditions also suggest that Waymo is not in a hurry to settle the lawsuit, partly due to its value as a distraction for the Uber leadership. The hearing was scheduled on October this year. However, Waymo persuaded a San Francisco judge to postpone the trial to early December, citing the necessity to investigate evidence Uber had not disclosed earlier. No further settlement talks are currently scheduled, the sources said.
The judge in charge of the case directed that the companies enter a mediation with a court-appointed magistrate. Amy Candido, a Waymo attorney, has declined to comment on any settlement talks, but said the company’s reasons for suing Uber are “pretty clear.” “Waymo had one goal: to stop Uber from using its trade secrets,” she said. “That remains its goal.” But an Uber spokesman refused to comment on the same. Waymo’s lawsuit has been distracting for Uber. A U.S District Judge William Alsup approved Waymo’s appeals for a pretrial injunction in May, which banned Levandowski from working in Lidar, a major sensor technology for self-driving cars that is the core of the current lawsuit.
Later, he was fired by Uber after he refused to return Waymo documents when the case heated. Surprisingly, he has declared his constitutional right against self-incrimination and refused to answer questions from Waymo lawyers. In the meantime, Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick resigned as chief executive for allegations of widespread misconduct at the company and since then he has become involved in a boardroom fight with fellow Uber investor Benchmark Capital. Benchmark referred to Waymo’s allegations as “theft” in a separate lawsuit aimed at forcing Kalanick off Uber’s board.
The law suit has been put on hold. A day before Kalanick was to give a statement on Waymo’s case, his lawyers requested Waymo to postpone the event as they claimed Kalanick was in the middle of a fight to appoint new board members and would be unavailable, a request which was not accepted by Waymo. It is clear that causing such disruptions for a competitor is a benefit to Waymo, Rowe said. Uber has appointed three law firms to litigate the case and dedicated thousands of hours to investigate its servers for Waymo confidential information. Waymo has approximated damages in the case to about $1.9 billion, which Uber disputes.
Despite that figure and huge settlement demands, Waymo views winning a permanent injunction against Uber using any Waymo intellectual property as the main priority, another source familiar with the company’s thinking revealed. Much of the technical evidence in the case has been filed under seal, making it impossible for outside observers to independently assess the strength of each side’s arguments. However, recently in court, Alsup said Uber’s product was “dissimilar” from Waymo‘s.
Even if a jury finds that Uber stole Waymo trade secrets, Uber says in court filings that its engineers have designed around the Waymo technology at issue in the case. If that is true, that would lessen the impact on Uber in the event of a defeat in court. Waymo is skeptical of Uber’s claim, however. In a court filing recently, it requested an order forcing Uber to disclose its source code, or underlying software, for its Lidar products.
The Alphabet subsidiary said in the filing that it recently learned that former employees took Waymo source code when they went to work at Uber, “including software related to the ‘brains’ of the self-driving vehicle. The battle is still on and we can’t predict the winner.
Is technology worth the fight?
Who is winning the battle?