Federal Judge Rules that Uber Must Return Stolen Files to Waymo
【Summary】A federal judge has ruled that Uber must return stolen files back to Alphabet Inc.’s self-driving company, Waymo, but can continue to give users rides in its driverless vehicles.
Earlier this year, Waymo filed a lawsuit against Uber, claiming that one of its former employees, Anthony Levandowski, downloaded 14,000 technical files and used them to launch Otto, an autonomous truck startup. The lawsuit allegedly stated that Levandowski took files that pertained to Waymo's LiDAR system, giving Uber the ability to build its own laser-scanning system in less than a year. That, in itself is an incredible feat, as it took Waymo approximately seven years to develop its LiDAR system.
The situation got worse when the head of Uber's Advanced Technology Group, Levandowski, stepped down from his position. Levandowski, who was in charge of developing Uber's autonomous driving program was reassigned to a subordinate role within the company earlier this April.
Federal Judge Rules In Waymo's Favor
A new report from Reuters claims that a federal judge has ruled that Uber must return the confidential files that were stole to Waymo by the end of the month. Clearly, the decision was a win for Waymo. The judge, though, as the report points out, didn't require Uber to stop testing its self-driving vehicles.
As Reuters reports, U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco stated that Waymo showed "compelling evidence" that former engineer Levandowski downloaded confidential documents. Judge Alsup also claims that Uber should have known that that the former Waymo engineer had taken confidential files. And that the files may have had trade secrets that made their way into Uber's autonomous program.
According to a report by Motor Trend, Uber employees have been barred from using the stolen files and Levandowski is required to stop working on any sort of LiDAR technology. Uber will also have to provide Waymo with an all-inclusive log revealing every single piece of communication Levandowski had in regard to LiDAR.
"The bottom line is the evidence indicates that Uber hired Levandowski even though it knew or should have known that he possessed over 14,000 confidential Waymo files likely containing Waymo's intellectual property," Alsup wrote.
Silver Lining For Uber
While the ruling was a blow to Uber's self-driving program, there's some good news for the company. Uber, as previously stated, will still be able to test its autonomous vehicles and the judge ruled that some of the 121 trade secrets that were stolen didn't qualify as trade secrets, Reuters reports.
Alsup has turned the case over to the U.S. Department of Justice for a possible investigation into trade secret theft. The judge, as Reuters points out, ruled against Uber's private arbitration requesting, putting the case out into the open.
Waymo's win, while not a decisive blow to Uber, will surely put the company another step ahead of the other in the driverless race. Waymo, which is currently in the lead in autonomous tech has announced a new partnership with Lyft, creating an alliance that will surely make it a force to be reckoned with.
Vineeth Joel Patel
Joel Patel has been covering all aspects of the automotive industry for four years as an editor and freelance writer for various websites. When it comes to cars, he enjoys covering the merger between technology and cars. In his spare time, Joel likes to watch baseball, work on his car, and try new foods
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