Alphabet drops some of the charges
Image: Financial Times.

On Friday, spokespeople from Waymo said Alphabet’s self-driving arm would drop three out of four patent infringement claims against Uber in their ongoing lawsuit over intellectual property theft.

Likewise, Uber said they would be seeking depositions from Alphabet CEO Larry Page and its chief legal officer David Drummond to shed light on some details about a partnership proposed by former CEO Travis Kalanick.

The ride-sharing giant’s legal counsel claims that ulterior motivations were underlying those talks and that the lawsuit itself is driven by the desire to slow Uber’s progress in the market.

Uber isn’t using the patents that initiated the lawsuit anymore

In February, Waymo sued Uber because it had stolen trade secrets and was using them for their own technological efforts. Concretely, they were referring to the LIDAR technology known as Spider as well as its components.

Anthony Levandowski, who was both a Waymo engineer and the leader of Uber’s self-driving division before helming its own startup, is being pointed at by Alphabet as the responsible for stealing 14,000 company files.

The files contained information regarding the tech giant’s proprietary technology at the time, a LIDAR design nicknamed Spider. The documents were allegedly handed over by Levandowski, and the system was used in Uber cars until recently.

Patents Nos. 8,836,922, 9,285,464, and 9,086,273 were the ones that corresponded to Waymo’s claims dropped over the weekend, but the one remaining concerns a newer design that is still comes equipped with Uber’s driverless cars.

Fiji, as it is called, is still being disputed by Waymo as intellectual property in their domain. The Alphabet subsidiary has said it has strong evidence to back up its claims and that it will wait until trial next October to show them in court.

Uber and Waymo could have been the same company

On the other hand, court documents indicate that ex-CEO Travis Kalanick was suspicious of Alphabet’s intentions as far back as 2015 when the two titans were in talks to sign a partnership to develop the self-driving technology.

In emails gathered as evidence for the case, Kalanick writes to David Drummond of Google about having a meeting with Larry Page to clear out any issues with the potential project.

As many will remember, Google was one of the main investors in Uber before the rivalry developed. Drummond even served as a member of the board until 2016, and the two companies could have been the same if it were not for the tech giant’s decision to compete instead of teaming up.

However, that decision came after a meeting in which Drummond, Page, Kalanick and another Uber exec met for lunch to talk about the future of the company. From then on the two parties distanced from one another, and Uber lawyers say the reasons behind that could influence the outcome of the lawsuit.

Source: Recode