In response to a series of questions posed by District Judge William Alsup, Uber claims that no one there was aware of any proprietary information taken from Waymo until that company had filed its lawsuit.
To recap: Waymo, the self-driving car unit of Google parent Alphabet, sued Uber over theft of trade secrets, as the companies fight to bring autonomous vehicles to market. All of this came about after Anthony Levandowski, a key engineer leading Waymo’s self-driving car efforts, left the company and founded an autonomous trucking company called Otto, which was later acquired by Uber.
Waymo claims that on his way out the door, Levandowski took with him several gigs worth of confidential documents related to Google’s proprietary LiDAR design, which they believe were later used in the creation of Uber’s own custom autonomous driving technology.
There have been several twists and turns along the way, as both companies ready discovery documents ahead of a planned October court date. But some of the most contentious fighting leading up to the trial has been around whether or not Levandowski downloaded the files before leaving Waymo, who he might have shared them with, and what Uber knew about the alleged theft and when.
On that front, Waymo has argued that Uber was aware Levandowski was in possession of material he shouldn’t have had, citing Uber’s own filings to support the claim. That includes a March 11, 2016 meeting, when Levandowski told Uber executives, including then-CEO Travis Kalanick about five discs of Waymo material he had discovered.
But in today’s filing, Uber strongly objected to that argument, saying that it had no knowledge of any information that Levandowski had taken from Google or Waymo. Uber argues that its employment agreement with Levandowski would have prohibited him from using that information even if he had it.
Most importantly, the when Levandowski made known to Uber that he discovered five discs worth of proprietary Waymo information, he was told that the company wanted nothing to do with it. As the document states, “Kalanick emphatically told Levandowski that Uber did not want any such information, that Levandowski should not bring any such information to Uber, and to talk to his lawyer.”
Later in the day, the document alleges, Levandowski told others that he had destroyed the discs in question. As a result, Uber claims that no proprietary information was used in the development of its autonomous vehicle program.
While today’s filing is the strongest and most complete statement in which Uber proclaims its innocence in the matter, its fight is far from over. By all indications it appears both companies will still be going to court in October, with Waymo trying to prove that Levandowski stole information that made its way into Uber’s tech, and Uber trying to show that isn’t the case.
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