Technology company Uber's dream of bringing self-driving cars to the world looks like it has hit a major IP speed bump. Apparently engineers at Google's self-driving car unit, Waymo, were inadvertently copied on an email from a supplier of components for Uber's self-drive technology. The email attached technical drawings which according to Waymo bear a striking resemblance to its own technology. Google and Waymo allege that a former employee and engineer, Anthony Levandowski, downloaded over 14,000 confidential and proprietary files before he left Waymo to form his own self-driving truck business which was later acquired by Uber. The lawsuit alleges Levandowski downloaded the files and then took elaborate steps to conceal what he had done including installing a new operating system on his laptop to wipe his digital footprint.
Waymo has now filed proceedings in the District Court in San Francisco alleging misappropriation of trade secrets, patent infringement and unfair competition as a result of the misappropriation. As they would in New Zealand the proceedings seek an injunction and damages albeit unlike in New Zealand "treble damages" are sought along with punitive damages.
Uber has said that it is taking the allegations seriously but may well find itself having real issues if it has purchased a problem when it bought Levandowski's business. Given all the other issues Uber is facing in the media the IP speed bump, and potentially IP road spikes, is likely to be a major headache and may change the future of self-driving cars.
Uber is being sued for stealing trade secrets and technology from Google.Waymo, set up by Google owner Alphabet, is taking legal action against Otto, Uber's self-driving vehicle unit that it bought last year for $700m.The lawsuit argues that former Waymo manager Anthony Levandowski took information when he left to co-found a venture that became Otto.Uber said it took the allegations seriously and would review the matter carefully.