The first driverless-car era lawsuit begun today on February 5th with two of technology’s heavyweights facing each other in the courtroom. Waymo is suing Uber over intellectual property theft of secrets that specialists consider to be both highly disruptive and profitable for the auto industry.
The lawsuit began due to a mistaken email from an Uber worker, who accidentally forwarded a circuit board that looked a lot like one of Waymo’s designs for a self-driving car. This escalated into a multibillion lawsuit for over $1.4 billion and a public apology.
Anthony Levandowski, a former Google employee and a key figure in the development of autonomous vehicles, was the center of the alleged lawsuit over the theft of thousands of documents. He is not a defendant but is on Waymo’s witness list. He was fired from Uber in May 2017 for refusing to cooperate with Uber and hand over information requested from him.
Waymo’s chief lawyer stated that the reason behind Uber’s plagiarism was that it’s a company that realized the future of elite transportation is heading towards autonomous vehicles, and they realized how grim the future will be.
In his opening statement Charles Verhoven, Waymo’s chief lawyer stated “Internal documents indicate that Mr. Kalanick wanted to find ‘cheat codes.’ In their own words, in these documents … Mr. Kalanick said he wanted to use Levandowski to leapfrog Google.”
Uber, however, states that any actions that might have been made are just a typical case of Silicon Valley competition; this is something that will remain in the air for a long time. In Silicon Valley, companies typically engage in these practices to recruit top talent, especially in the technological field. Basically the fact that “everybody does it” is one of Uber’s defense pillars
Another pillar of Uber’s defense is the fact that none of the eight trade secrets ever made it into Uber’s hands, and also that the only thing left over the company’s relationship with Anthony Levandowski is regret.
Good morning from Uber-Waymo DAY 1, where Judge Alsup feels it's "unconscionable" how many lawyers are in his courtroom
— Alison Griswold (@alisongriswold) February 5, 2018
The courtroom situation so far
On Monday, Judge William Aslup declared that Waymo was not allowed to present financial figures during the trial since it may influence the jury in an unfair way and it was ordered to focus only on trade secrets solely, which could favor Uber in the trial in case they loss in terms of the amount of money they’d have to pay for damage caused.
However, Judge Aslup stated that in order to present evidence, Waymo will be allowed to show Uber’s projections from its “Project Rubicon”. On the other hand, there is the Anthony Levandowski factor, who will remain silent during the trial since he pleaded the Fifth Amendment.