We previously wrote about ex-Google engineer Anthony Levandowski, the former head of Google’s self-driving division, who was charged criminally for misappropriation of trade secrets prior to his departure from Google. Levandowski ultimately pleaded guilty to stealing a confidential document related to Google’s self-driving technology. Levandowski’s attorneys had requested that he be let off without any prison time, arguing that a year of home confinement, a fine, restitution, and community service would be sufficient punishment for his crime. The federal government had asked for a prison sentence of twenty-seven months. The judge chose not to accept either proposed sentence and instead handed down an 18-month prison sentence to Levandowski.
In handing down his sentence, US District Judge William Alsup said that a sentence without imprisonment would give “a green light to every future brilliant engineer to steal trade secrets.” Levandowski was originally charged with 33 counts of stealing trade secrets in connection with Levandowski’s downloading thousands of documents to his personal laptop before leaving Google to work on his own self-driving startup, Otto, which was later acquired by Uber in August 2016 for a reported $680 million. As part of his plea deal, Levandowski admitted to stealing one document called “Chauffeur TL weekly updates,” which tracked the progress of Google’s “Project Chauffeur” that later became Google’s self-driving division, Waymo. According to reports, Judge Alsup described the stolen document as a “competitor’s game plan” and called Levandowski’s theft the “biggest trade secret crime I have ever seen.” In exchange for pleading guilty to this one charge, the government agreed to drop the other charges against Levandowski. Continue reading ›