June 24, 2017

Uber threatened to fire engineer at center of Waymo trade secret lawsuit

Uber self-driving car
By Diablanco (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Uber has issued a sternly worded letter to Anthony Levandowski, the engineer at the center of a lawsuit alleging theft of trade secrets from Google parent Alphabet’s self-driving technology unit Waymo. The gist? Comply with the court’s orders or risk being terminated.

Levandowski is the former technology lead for Google’s autonomous vehicle unit and co-founder of self-driving truck startup Otto, which Uber acquired for $680 million last summer. He is also accused of downloading tens of thousands of confidential documents related to Google’s proprietary LiDAR design before leaving the company and founding Otto.

That is at the center of Waymo’s case, which was filed in February and accuses Uber of misappropriating its trade secrets and infringing on patents related to its self-driving vehicle program. The suit is going to trial and there’s the possibility of a criminal case being opened up as well.

But in the meantime, Waymo has argued that discovery in the case has been held up by Levandowski refusing to answer questions related to the alleged theft of proprietary data. Levandowski has repeatedly invoked the Fifth Amendment in the case, citing the potential for criminal action that could lead to self-incrimination.

Last week Judge William Alsup ordered that Uber “exercise […]

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