As cases go this is shaping up to be a blockbuster.
At stake is the potentially huge self-driving market.
Here are the brief facts.
Waymo (owned by Google) has spent some 9 years developing and fine-tuning their self-drive technology, the heart of which is LiDAR maps which can process over 1 million data points per second. Otto (acquired by Uber) managed the feat in only 9 months.
According to Google, Uber stole their trade secrets.
Anthony Levandowski, a former manager at Waymo, in December 2015 downloaded more than 14,000 proprietary and confidential files, including the LiDAR circuit board designs, according to the complaint.
Levandowski left Waymo in January 2016 and went on to form Otto in May 2016 which was acquired by Uber only two months later for $680m.
As if those brief facts are not suspicious enough, Waymo’s complaint contains such specific information about the devices used and the dates the information was downloaded that it’s "hard to believe they’d put those accusations into print unless they had evidence,"says Tyler Ochoa, a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law.
Here are few takeaways:
- Expect many more intellectual property cases. Technology companies' major assets really are their intellectual property and very little else. Think Uber and Airbnb which really are highly sophisticated databases and little else.
- Expect many more actions in the self drive space. It is already a crowded space with Tesla and Apple also fighting over talent and trade secrets
- Unbelievably this case only came to light after a wayward email intended for Uber was sent to Waymo by mistake. Levandowski apparently covered his tracks with the help of some software but clearly he has still left his finger prints on the scene of the crime. No matter, these technology companies need to massively beef up their security measures and maybe that is the new growth area?
No matter who you are, your intellectual property is everything. Guard it accordingly.
"These are very serious allegations, if true," said Tyler Ochoa, a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law. "The trade secret case by itself is a blockbuster."