Waymo’s Stolen Trade Secrets Lawsuit Just Cost Uber Lots of Money
About a year ago, Waymo, Google’s autonomous driving division, sued Uber for allegedly using stolen trade secrets to develop its own self-driving cars. This week, the two companies met in court to fight it out, but instead of waiting for a verdict, Uber decided to settle the case.
Automotive News reports that the settlement requires Uber to pay Waymo slightly less than $245 million. While that’s quite a bit of money, Reuters reports that Waymo’s initial offer was for $500 million, significantly less than its claim of $1.9 billion in damages. The settlement will be paid in stock equity, not cash, giving Waymo a 0.34-percent stake in Uber at its most recent $72 billion valuation.
Following the announcement, Waymo released a statement saying, “We are committed to working with Uber to make sure that each company develops its own technology. This includes an agreement to ensure that any Waymo confidential information is not being incorporated in Uber Advanced Technologies Group hardware and software.”
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi also issued a statement. “To be clear, while we do not believe that any trade secrets made their way from Waymo to Uber, nor do we believe that Uber has used any of Waymo’s proprietary information in its self-driving technology, we are taking steps with Waymo to ensure our lidar and software represents just our good work,” said Khosrowshahi.
The disagreement began back in August of 2016 when Uber bought Otto, a self-driving truck startup. Before he left to start Otto, founder Anthony Levandowski worked for Google in its self-driving car division. After selling Otto, Levandowski took over Uber’s work to develop its own autonomous technology. Not long after that, Google accused Levandowski of stealing confidential files when he left the company. In the lawsuit, Waymo claimed Uber knew or should have known that Levandowski was using stolen designs.
While this settlement puts the issue to rest for Uber, Waymo has reportedly filed separate lawsuits against Levandowski and Otto co-founder Lior Ron. The Department of Justice is also currently investigating Levandowski and may bring criminal charges.