Waymo vs. Uber: Damning Report Made Public
A report that Alphabet wants to use in its lawsuit against Uber was made public today. The document in question details the assets and liabilities of a startup Uber acquired in August 2016 that has become a central part of Alphabet's claims that Uber stole proprietary information.
Uber commissioned the due diligence report when it was in the process of acquiring Otto, a self-driving trucking startup founded by Anthony Levandowki, a former Alphabet executive who was accused of stealing trade secrets.
Alphabet, which is suing Uber for allegedly misappropriating self-driving trade secrets, claims that the document provided a "mountain" of new evidence that it needed more time to pursue, which is why Alphabet had asked to delay the trial. The judge, William Alsup, is expected to determine tomorrow whether to grant the company more time.
"Even beyond the trade secrets Waymo listed at the outset of this case, the new evidence indicates that there is other proprietary information, contained in the new documents, that made its way to Defendants," Alphabet wrote in a new filing. "The investigation of this material has only just begun, and Waymo is entitled to the time and full discovery necessary to confirm exactly what proprietary information Defendants gained from Levandowski and Ottomotto."
The ride-hail company and its former self-driving head, Anthony Levandowski, fought the production of this document, claiming that it was privileged information. However, the judge quashed that argument, and ruled that Uber had to provide the document to Alphabet. This decision was appealed by Levandowski, but Alsup's decision was ultimately upheld, and a judge decided that Alphabet would receive the document on Sept. 13.
Based on interviews with Levandowski, the cybersecurity firm that conducted the investigation Stroz Friedberg found that Levandowski: "(a) possessed Google information; (b) met with a number of Google employees about joining his start-up company; (c) met with Uber executives, while employed at Google, about forming a new company; and (d) destroyed highly confidential Google proprietary information he had stored on five disks on his personal Drobo 50, including source code, files, and software pertaining to self-driving cars."
According to the document, Stroz found 50,000 work emails from his time at Google on Levandowski's personal computer. Stroz also found texts between Levandowski and former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick about recruitment efforts and working with Uber's self-driving arm dating back to as early as February and March 2016 - just weeks after Levandowski left Alphabet and launched Otto out of stealth.
The report further details pictures that were found on Levandowski's phones which included "pictures of the construction process of Google , such as components/connections and parts" as well as "drawings and diagrams, such as figures depicting radar technology."
Stroz also found a number of confidential images on Otto co-founder Lior Ron's phone. Neither Ron nor Levandowski are name din Alphabet's lawsuit. Levandowski has also asserted his fifth amendment rights.
The crux of Alphabet's lawsuit against Uber rests on a claim that Levandowski stole the design for a key sensor technology called lidar before he left the company to start Otto.
But Uber contends Kalanick said he insisted that Levandowski destroy any Google files he had in his possession before joining Uber and that this report is further evidence that none of the files made it to the ride-hail company.
"Before Uber acquired Otto, we hired an independent forensics firm to conduct due diligence because we wanted to prevent any Google IP from coming to Uber," an Uber spokesperson said in a statement. "Their report, which we are pleased is finally public, helps explain why-even after 60 hours of inspection of our facilities, source code, documents and computers-no Google material has been found at Uber."
In addition to assessing the assets of Levandowski's startup Otto, the due diligence report looked into any liabilities Uber was taking on, specifically referencing "pre-signing bad acts." Levandowski and his co-founder, Lior Ron, would not agree to sell their company to Uber unless they were protected against any potential future lawsuits, including those that occurred as a result of any "pre-signing bad acts."
© 2017 Re/Code under contract with NewsEdge/Acquire Media. All rights reserved.
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