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Waymo Seeks Injunction for Alleged Trade Secret Theft of Google Self-Driving Secrets

In Silicon Valley, the heart of the technology industry, a company’s greatest asset is its talent. Their brains and the information they have access to are priceless, which is why, for many tech companies, it is imperative for them not to allow their employees to take such invaluable information directly to a competitor. It’s also why Waymo, Google’s self-driving car company, is suing Uber and one of Google’s former employees for allegedly stealing trade secrets.

According to Waymo, Anthony Levandowski, who was working on Google’s self-driving vehicle technology, left the company last year after allegedly stealing 14,000 documents containing trade secrets. Levandowski then started his own self-driving truck company, called Otto, which he sold to Uber earlier this year. Levandowski is now working as the head of Uber’s self-driving department, although Uber and Levandowski claim their technology bears no resemblance to Waymo’s self-driving technology.

The dispute centers around the lidar system, which is what self-driving cars use to help them navigate using radar and light detection. Uber said it started designing its lidar system in 2015, before Levandowski ever came to work for them, and that it bears no resemblance to Waymo’s lidar system. Uber points to the fact that their lidar system uses four lenses while Waymo’s only uses one.

Waymo claims it was inadvertently copied on an email from a supplier containing the blueprint of Uber’s lidar system, which Waymo alleges bore significant similarities to its own design. Uber insists the lidar system currently in use on its self-driving vehicles is an off-the-shelf design from the supplier and that their own design (which they’re still working on) looks nothing like Waymo’s.

Uber says they have found no evidence that Google’s missing files are in its possession, but that might be because Levandowski has refused to let them search his computers. He has decided to plead the Fifth, rather than cooperate with Uber’s investigation, which is definitely suspicious.

Waymo is seeking a temporary injunction against Uber to prevent the ride-share company from working on its self-driving technology until the claims in its lawsuit have been settled. Uber said the lawsuit is baseless and that Waymo is likely only filing it in order to put a stop to the work being done by one of its competitors. In an industry in which timing is everything, a successful injunction against Uber could do serious damage to the company’s prospects for entering the self-driving market.

In their motion requesting the court to dismiss Waymo’s plea for a temporary injunction, Uber claims it seems suspicious that Google has known about the stolen files since October and waited five months before filing its lawsuit. In such a case, Uber claims the need for a temporary injunction cannot be all that urgent, and as a result, should not be granted.

Although the decision to grant or deny the injunction has not yet been made, Judge William Alsup, of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, said in a hearing that just because Uber couldn’t find the stolen documents was not enough to prove they weren’t benefiting from them, especially given Levandowski’s refusal to surrender his computers and devices as part of Uber’s investigation.

Our Chicago non-compete agreement attorneys have defended high level executives in covenant not to compete and trade secret lawsuits. A case in which our firm defended a former Motorola executive was covered in Crain’s Chicago business. You can view that article by clicking here.

DiTommaso Lubin Austermuehle a firm of Chicago business dispute lawyers handles litigation over non-compete clauses for individuals and businesses of all sizes, including small or closely held businesses for whom competition from an ex-employee can be a serious threat. Our Chicago business lawyers with offices near Evanston and Wilmette have substantial experience in restrictive covenant and breach of contract cases, and we are proud of our record of strong results. We have successfully represented a number of doctors in non-compete, partnership and other business disputes.  We understand the complexities of physician partnership and non-compete agreements.

DiTommaso Lubin Austermuehle a Chicago business litigation law firm represents both plaintiffs and defendants in such cases, and can also help stop litigation before it starts by reviewing contracts to look for covenants and clauses that could create problems later. Our firm has also handled many shareholder and LLC disputes between owners of closely held corporations, and LLCs.

Based in Oakbrook Terrace and downtown Chicago, our Naperville and Rosemont non-compete agreement and business dispute lawyers take cases from Des Plaines and Park Ridge and many other cities throughout Illinois, as well as in Indiana, Wisconsin and the entire United States. To learn more or set up a free consultation, please contact one of our Chicago business dispute lawyers through the Internet or call toll-free at 1-877-990-4990 today.

Vincent L. DiTommaso

DiTommaso Lubin Austermuehle’s Oak Brook, Waukegan, and Geneva litigation attorneys have more than three decades of experience helping clients unravel the complexities of Illinois and out-of-state non-compete and trade secret theft laws. Our Chicago business dispute attorneys also represent individuals, family businesses and enterprises of all sizes in a variety of legal disputes, including disputes among partners, shareholders and LLC members as well as lawsuits between businesses and and consumer rights, auto fraud, and wage claim individual and class action cases. In every case, our goal is to resolve disputes as quickly and successfully as possible, helping business clients protect their investments and get back to business as usual. From offices in Oak Brook, near Hinsdale and Elmhurst, we serve clients throughout Illinois and the Midwest.