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The Former Head of Uber ATG Must Pay Google $179 Million to Settle Dispute Over Stolen Trade Secrets

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【Summary】Anthony Levandowski, the former head of Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group, was ordered to pay $179 million to settle a dispute with Google over stolen trade secrets, according to a court order on Wednesday.

FutureCar Staff    Mar 04, 2020 4:55 PM PT
The Former Head of Uber ATG Must Pay Google $179 Million to Settle Dispute Over Stolen Trade Secrets
Anthony Levandowski, the former head of Uber's Advanced Technologies Group, speaks at a company event in 2016.

Anthony Levandowski, the former head of Uber's Advanced Technologies Group (ATG) which is the self-driving car unit of ride-hailing company Uber Technologies Inc, was ordered to pay $179 million, which includes attorney fees, to settle a dispute with Google over stolen trade secrets, according to a court order on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

Levandowski, was a key engineer in Google's self-driving project, and a co-founder of Otto, engaged in unfair competition and breached their legal obligations by starting a rival company using Google's driverless car technology and employees, an arbitration panel ruled in December.

Levandowski is a former Google engineer who worked on the search giant's self-driving car program at the company's Waymo division along with his colleague Lior Ron. Levandowski and Ron abruptly resigned from Waymo without notice in January 2016 and co-founded self-driving trucking company Otto, taking other employees with him.

Otto was purchased by Uber in August 2016 for around $680 million in order to help jumpstart Uber's own self-driving car efforts. After the acquisition, Levandowski was hired to lead Uber ATG and develop its self-driving technology. 

Before his departure from Google in early 2016, Levandowski was accused of downloading over 14,000 documents or 9.6 GB of files and other trade secrets from Google's servers. The documents contained trade secrets and schematics related to lidar development.

Lidar is a 3D laser technology that's used on autonomous vehicles for identifying objects such as other vehicles and pedestrians in order for self-driving vehicles to safely navigate.

In February 2017, Waymo filed a lawsuit against Uber over the alleged theft of the documents and accused Levandowski of sharing trade secrets with Uber. 

Levandowski stepped down from his role at Uber ATG in April 2017, but was eventually fired from the company a month later for refusing to cooperate with the subsequent investigation.

Waymo and Uber eventually settled their dispute a year later in February 2018, with Waymo receiving a 0.34 percent stake in Uber, worth about $245 million at the time. 

The settlement includes an agreement to ensure that Waymo confidential information is not being incorporated into any of Uber's technology, which Waymo has said was its main reason for the lawsuit to begin with.

Uber was lucky to avoid a sustainable payout. Waymo was originally seeking up to $1 billion from Uber.

However, In August 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice stepped in and filed criminal charges against Levandowski for the theft of the trade secrets.

Ron eventually settled with Google for $9.7 million last month. However Levandowski had disputed the ruling ordering him to pay $127 million without including legal fees. On Wednesday, Reuters reported that  a San Francisco County court confirmed the arbitration panel's decision and award.

Waymo said it would "continue to take the necessary steps to ensure our confidential information is protected."

Waymo confirmed that Uber had paid the $9.7 million owed by Ron, as Uber indemnifies workers under its employment agreements. However, Uber said in financial filings that it expects to challenge having to pay for Levandowski, who is still fighting the separate federal indictment.


resource from: Reuters

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