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February 6, 2018

Quest to dominate self-driving cars is at the heart of Waymo v. Uber trial

  • Government
  • Judicial
  • Industry
  • Robotics/AI

Ars Technica – This story has everything: a cutthroat startup using cloak-and-dagger tactics going up against a corporate giant, a now-dismissed star engineer accused of stealing thousands of crucial files, cutting-edge Silicon Valley technology, and a whipsmart, no-nonsense, tech-savvy judge.

This year's hottest tech-related trial is Waymo v. Uber. At 7:30am PT Monday, what began as a trade secrets lawsuit back in February 2017 is set to open in federal court in San Francisco, just blocks from Uber headquarters.

On one side is Waymo, the self-driving car division of Alphabet, Google's parent company. Its lawyers accused Uber of effectively stealing its secret sauce when the ridesharing company hired away a top engineer who had taken 14,000 internal files without authorization before leaving Google.

On the other side is Uber, which maintains that it did nothing wrong when it hired Anthony Levandowski in August 2016 and paid an eye-popping $680 million for his startup, Otto, which had only existed for a few months. Uber maintains that it hasn't improperly benefited from what Levandowski took. In fact, since this case began, Uber even fired Levandowski because he would not comply with subpoenas.

What precise trade secrets Uber is accused of taking remains publicly unknown. For Waymo, showing that what Uber acquired was indeed a trade secret and that it was misappropriated isn't a slam dunk. After all, while trade secrets are, as the moniker suggests, secret, they aren't as legally protected as patents.

Read more at Ars Technica.

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