Arbitrators award Waymo $128 million over Uber’s use of stolen technology after employee defection to rival driverless car division
The long running legal battle between two players in the autonomous vehicle technology sector seems to be drawing to a close.
Alphabet’s autonomous driving unit Waymo has revealed that on Thursday this week arbitrators had finalised a judgement of $128 million, plus undisclosed legal costs and interest, against two former employees who jumped ship to rival Uber Technologies.
In November 2019 an expert review found that Uber was still using Waymo technology for its own autonomous vehicle technology.
Before that in June 2018 the boss of Uber admitted that his firm was talking with Waymo. The two firms have had an exceeding frosty relationship over the past couple of years.
This was because in 2017 Waymo filed a trade secrets lawsuit against Uber, alleging that Anthony Scott 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.
As part of that settlement, an independent software expert was drafted in to review Uber’s technology for any Waymo links.
This expert review concluded late last year that Uber was still reliant on Waymo know-how for elements of its own self-driving vehicle technology.
And in August 2019, a federal grand jury in San Jose indicted Anthony Scott Levandowski for the alleged theft of trade secrets.
That separate case is still ongoing.
Levandowski was a Google (Waymo) engineer from 2009 and was apparently one of the founding members of the group that worked on Google’s self-driving car project. He abruptly resigned from Google without notice on 27 January 2016.
At the time of his resignation, Levandowski was the lead of Google’s Light Detecting and Ranging (LiDAR) engineering team, but he left and then co-founded Ottomotto (which was then brought by Uber).
Levandowski eventually was made head of Uber’s self-driving program.
And now Reuters has reported that Anthony Levandowski and business leader Lior Ron were found liable, when Waymo won an interim judgement in March 2019.
Levandowski was found liable for $127 million, while he and Ron were found liable for a further $1 million, according to previous disclosures.
Waymo last month was then awarded the legal fees, attorneys’ fees and prejudgement interest, but the amounts were redacted in state court papers filed on Thursday in San Francisco, Reuters reported.
Waymo said it was seeking court approval to publish the figures.
Ron remains at Uber. But Uber fired Levandowski in 2017 and said last year it would pursue reimbursement from him.
Attorneys for Levandowski did not immediately respond to requests for comment, Reuters said.
What do you know about Uber, its innovations and controversies? Try our quiz!