Uber and Google (and Waymo) Go Toe To Toe Over Self-Driving Car Technology Patents

On Friday, Uber responded to a lawsuit filed by a company called Waymo who had recently accused the ride-hailing app company of, essentially, stealing sensitive information/technology from the industry competitor. Waymo filed this lawsuit in February, alleging that Uber had infringed on Waymo patents and stealing trade secrets. The new lawsuit claims that Uber—and Otto, a company initiated by former Google car and map veterans Lior Ron and Anthony Levandowski, which Uber acquired for $680 million, in August 2016— are using crucial components of Waymo’s self-driving technology. In particular, the lawsuit names the technology used in its light detection and ranging radar (also known as LiDAR). Uber, of course, has called the lawsuit baseless.

Specifically, the lawsuit claims that Levandowski, specifically, downloaded in excess of 14,000 confidential and proprietary files just before leaving Google (to move to Uber). These 14,000 alleged files include a vast array of massively confidential files, which includes, of course, include Waymo’s LiDAR circuit board design. Furthermore, Waymo insists that this matter is great import because their in-house design has reduced the price of building the LiDAR system by as much as 90 percent (with the average, advanced LiDAR sensor costing, today, as much as $75,000 a piece).

With this, Uber is now trying to fight back in order to stop a judge from slowing—or completely dismantling—its self-driving car program.

In response, Uber associate general counsel Angela Padilla argues: “Waymo’s injunction motion is a misfire: there is no evidence that any of the 14,000 files in question ever touched Uber’s servers and Waymo’s assertion that our multi-lens LiDAR is the same as their single-lens LiDAR is clearly false.”

She goes on to say, “If Waymo genuinely thought that Uber was using its secrets, it would not have waited more than five months to seek an injunction. Waymo doesn’t meet the high bar for an injunction, which would stifle independent innovation and competition.”

Accordingly, Waymo holds a staunch stance, reacting to the Uber’s lawsuit with very little waver. A Waymo spokesman reports that “Uber’s assertion that they’ve never touched the 14,000 stolen files is disingenuous at best,” noting that the company’s claim nobody can prove the theft is unfounded since they simply refuse to “look in the most obvious place: the computers and devices owned by the head of their self-driving program.”

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