By on July 10, 2017

Uber Volvo Autonomous

Alphabet Inc.’s autonomous car division Waymo, formerly Google, abandoned three of four patent-infringement claims in its lawsuit against Uber Technologies Inc. in a surprise move on Friday.

Earlier, U.S. District Judge William Alsup specifically asked Waymo to narrow its more than 100 trade secrets claims to fewer than 10 if they ever wanted to place them in front of a jury. During a June 7th hearing, he also said, “I want to reiterate to the plaintiff here that you should think a lot about just dropping the patent part of this case.”

Waymo listened and dumped the majority of its patent claims to focus more heavily on the trade secret issues surrounding the 14,000 files stolen by ex-employee Anthony Levandowski — which is, perhaps, the only thing the two companies can agree upon. Uber is glad to see the focus shift back onto Levandowski, who has been at the core of the case since day one. Now it only has to prove it didn’t pay for access to the data instead of spending time differentiating its own designs from Waymo’s. 

Uber fired Levandowski in late May after he exercised his constitutional right against self-incrimination and refused to testify in the case — making its defense particularly problematic.

On Friday, Uber asserted that Levandowski downloaded the documents to compile extensive evidence that he deserved a bonus from Google during his tenure and just happened to hang on to them. It claimed the engineer had admitted this to former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick during his time with the company and that the files were supposed to be deleted during the acquisition of Levandowski’s autonomous trucking startup, Otto.

“Levandowski downloaded the files in connection with ensuring payment of his $120 million Google bonus,” an Uber spokesperson said. “Even if Levandowski did what Waymo says he did, he did it as a Google employee, for reasons unrelated to his future employment at Uber.”

The response from Waymo highlights its earlier assertion: that it initiated legal action due to strong evidence that data from the stolen files appeared in Uber’s tech. It then accused the company of attempting to distract the public by changing its story and abandoning ownership of the problem.

However, Waymo has still walked back the majority its accusations against its rival, with only one piece of technology still under dispute. Uber seems to be prepared to consider that an early victory, despite still being in the middle of an indictment and some rather ugly corporate banter.

“Waymo’s retreat on three of their four patent claims is yet another sign that they have over-promised and can’t deliver,” Uber said in a statement to Bloomberg. “Not only have they uncovered zero evidence of any of the 14,000 files in question coming to Uber, they now admit that Uber’s LIDAR design is actually very different than theirs. Faced with this hard truth, Waymo has resorted to floating conspiracy theories not rooted in fact, doing everything they can to put the focus on sensation rather than substance.”

While Waymo still believes the earlier designs of Uber’s LIDAR system are extremely similar to some of its patented hardware, it has decided to abandon all but one of its patent claims. The remaining system, dubbed Fuji, is still in use in Uber test vehicles. “We continue to pursue a patent claim against Uber’s current generation device and our trade secret claims, which are not at all affected by this stipulated dismissal,” said Waymo. “We look forward to trial.”

[Image: Volvo]

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One Comment on “Waymo Drops Most Patent Claims Against Uber, Animosity Still Strong...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “…$120 million Google bonus” I wasn’t sure I read that right.

    It’s common to reduce patent complaints down to a small number of claimed infringements. Such a narrow focus may actually help Waymo’s case.

    No matter what, Mr Levandowski is out in the cold, and both Waymo and Uber will be unhappy with the outcome of this case.

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