Uber, Google Settle Heated Legal Battle For $245 Million

Eric Lieberman | Tech and Law Reporter

Uber and Waymo, the self-driving car arm of Google parent company Alphabet, have agreed to settle a lengthy legal battle surrounding accusations that the ride-sharing company acquired stolen proprietary information.

Waymo is set to receive roughly $244.8 million in Uber stock, according to Axios, which comes to about one-third of a percentage point in ownership stake. The courtroom was reportedly shocked by the news that the two overseeing tech giants would finally end the spat this way after months of legal processes.

The lawsuit has been whirlwind of activity, from administrative mistakes to Anthony Levandowski, one of the main subjects of the lawsuit, refusing to testify by exercising his Fifth Amendment rights.

Levandowski, widely considered to be one of the godfathers of autonomous vehicle technology, was accused of taking trade secrets and critical blueprints he obtained through his role at Waymo prior to leaving to head Uber’s driverless car startup Otto.

Google specifically alleged at the time that Levandowski secretly built his own company while working and making $120 million in incentives at the tech company. The lawsuit claimed that Levandowski “downloaded over 14,000 highly confidential and proprietary design files for Waymo’s various hardware systems” around six weeks before he resigned from the company and took it to the new budding enterprise, Otto.

Levandowski failed to disclose the fact that he was developing Otto, a self-driving startup, until after he received the huge payout, according to Google. Uber purchased Otto in August in a deal reportedly worth $680 million.

The case grew so intense and significant that presiding U.S. District Judge William Alsup called for a criminal investigation into the accusations that Otto helped facilitate or was in some way involved in stealing trade secrets from Waymo, as a separate legal complaint from the then-ongoing civil case.

“To our friends at Alphabet: we are partners, you are an important investor in Uber, and we share a deep belief in the power of technology to change people’s lives for the better,” said Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, according to Axios. “Of course, we are also competitors. And while we won’t agree on everything going forward, we agree that Uber’s acquisition of Otto could and should have been handled differently.”

Waymo took a similar tone.

“We have reached an agreement with Uber that we believe will protect Waymo’s intellectual property now and into the future. We are committed to working with Uber to make sure that each company develops its own technology,” the Alphabet-owned company said in a statement. “This includes an agreement to ensure that any Waymo confidential information is not being incorporated in Uber Advanced Technologies Group hardware and software.”

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