Former Google Staffer Pleads Guilty To Trade Secret Theft

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Former senior executive at Google’s self-driving car project, who defected to Uber, pleads guilty to theft of trade secrets

The long-running trade-secret theft saga between Google’s self-driving car project Waymo and Uber Technologies has a new development.

Anthony Scott Levandowski was a former Waymo and on Thursday he agreed to plead guilty to taking sensitive documents from his former employer Google, before joining bitter rival Uber Technologies, Reuters reported.

In August 2019, a federal grand jury in San Jose had indicted Levandowski for the theft of trade secrets.

Guilty plea

According to Reuters, federal prosecutors have now agreed to recommend a prison term of no more than 30 months as part of plea agreement.

“We hope that this plea will allow him to move on with his life and focus his energies where they matter most,” developing new technologies, his attorney, Miles Ehrlich, said in a statement.

The US attorney’s office in San Francisco reportedly declined to comment on the matter.

“I downloaded these files with the intent to use them for my own personal benefit, and I understand that I was not authorised to take the files for that purpose,” Levandowski reportedly said in court papers.

Levandowski, who filed for bankruptcy on 4 March, also agreed to pay nearly $756,500 in restitution to cover Alphabet costs assisting the government’s investigation, according to court papers.

The bankruptcy declaration followed a California state court confirming that Levandowski owes $179 million to Google for violating employment contracts.

Uber usually indemnifies workers under its employment agreements, but said it expects to challenge paying the big judgement on behalf of its ex-employee.

Trade secrets

The case began back in 2017, when Google’s Waymo filed a trade secrets lawsuit against Uber, alleging that Anthony Levandowski had stolen technology contained in 14,000 documents, from Waymo for use by Ottomotto (a company subsequently acquired by Uber).

The Waymo case also involves business leader Lior Ron.

Uber in February 2018 agreed to pay Waymo $245m (£184m) in shares to settle the legal dispute over trade secrets. And in June 2018 the boss of Uber admitted his firm was talking with Waymo.

As part of that settlement, it was decided that an independent software expert would be drafted in to review Uber’s technology for any Waymo links.

In November 2019 that expert review found that Uber was still using Waymo technology for its own autonomous vehicle technology.

In January this year, Waymo was awarded $128 million over Uber’s use of stolen technology.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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