Alphabet’s spin-off self-driving division Waymo is currently embroiled in a legal battle against Uber over allegations of data theft and patent infringement. But, a lawsuit (later coupled with an injunction) against the ride-hailing giant wasn’t Waymo’s intention to start with. But, it had to resort to this said method because confronting its former executive Anthony Levandowski, who is at the center of these allegations, didn’t work out.
Last month, Waymo surprisingly slapped Uber with a patent infringement lawsuit claiming that the aforementioned executive stole 9.7GB of internal trade secrets. These included over 14,000 blueprints, design files, and testing documentation, used to build his self-driving truck startup Otto, which was bought by Uber. This led their self-driving division to allege Uber and Levandowski of copying the design of its LiDAR sensor technology, which is considered an extremely central component of self-driving vehicles.
Since then, the ride-hailing giant has been trying to throw these claims out the window saying that they’re baseless and without proof. And according to court documents filed by Uber, it has now surfaced the fact that Waymo sought legal action against their current VP of engineering Anthony Levandowski about four months ago. Google had then claimed:
[Levandowski] improperly used Waymo’s confidential information to induce Waymo employees to join a competing driverless-car enterprise.
The said arbitration process accused him of leaving the company with a full load of confidential information, which was later used to poach other employees from Waymo. Levandowski is said to have used confidential salary information he had learned at Alphabet’s self-driving division to make attractive targetted offers to his former colleagues. And two of these former employees are also accused of leaving with stolen confidential information in tow.
Arbitration, for those aloof, is an alternate and private method to settle disputes outside of the court. Under this procedure, a dispute is submitted, by agreement of both the parties, to one or more arbitrators who make a binding decision on the same. The said process is followed to keep the dispute out of the public eye or soften/transfer the blow of allegations.
Uber is trying to just that, by pushing the blame on Waymo for not being upfront and forthcoming with the allegations when they had confronted their former executive Anthony Levandowski. They’re pressuring the fact that Waymo should be fighting this court battle with their former executive rather than Uber. In its motion filed against Waymo in court, Uber said,
There should be no dispute concerning the validity of the arbitration agreements themselves in view of Waymo’s arbitration demand against Levandowski based on those agreements.
They’re trying to convince the federal judge that the self-driving unit’s claims against them belong in arbitration and a solution can be reached outside of court. Uber states that Waymo’s allegations against them are “inextricably bound up” because of the provisions of arbitrations in Levandowski’s employment agreement with them. And the fact that Google itself considered arbitration as a plausible alternative for settlement further bolsters their cause for pushing the same agenda in court.
The two technology giants will go against each other in court in May. There is currently no guarantee of the decision that the court will reach with regards to arbitration, but the patent infringement allegations will continue to apply. We will have to wait and witness the outcome of this massive trade-secrets battle.