Uber v/s Waymo, one of the biggest legal battles of the Silicon Valley, started on Monday. The legal dispute is to determine if Uber stole trade secrets from Waymo. Waymo is the self-driving car unit which is owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet.
It all began when Anthony Levandowski, an engineer who worked with Google on the company’s self-driving car efforts jumped ship and started working with Uber. Levandowski is being accused of taking 14,000 internal files of confidential Google documents without authorization before he left. According to the allegations these trade secrets were used while he was at Uber as the ride-hailing service competes to develop its own “Lidar” technology, a type of sensor used in self-driving cars.
On the other hand, Uber stated that they didn’t do anything wrong when the company hired Anthony Levandowski in August 2016. Uber maintains that they did not benefit in any improper way from confidential data that Levandowski took from Google. Levandowski was fired by Uber in 2017 after he failed to comply with several subpoenas.
This legal battle has created quite a stir in the industry and the underlying stories which led up to the trial have made Judge William Alsup reiterate that this is a dispute over intellectual property.
“The central issues in this case remains whether or not Uber misappropriated Uber’s trade secrets, not whether Uber is an evil corporation,” Judge Alsup said.
“When [engineers] move to new jobs with new employers, they cannot be expected to erase such natural on-the-job practical lessons from memory and will remain free under law to use them,” Alsup wrote in a draft of the instructions for jurors. “Engineers cannot, however, go further in new jobs with new employers to use or disclose to others specific engineering solutions or information developed by their prior employers.”
Although there is no public knowledge of the exact trade secrets that Waymo claims to be stolen from them. There are two primary things Waymo is seeking from this trial: Damages and a permanent injunction which could prevent Uber from using their alleged trade secrets. If Waymo is able to convince the jury that their “trade secrets” are indeed trade secrets, it will be up to the jury to determine the damages, however, Judge Alsup will likely decide on the injunction.