Alphabet's Waymo self-driving car firm sues Otto and Uber for stealing key technology

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2017
Alphabet's Waymo on Thursday sued Uber and its subsidiary Otto, accusing the companies of stealing key self-driving car patents covering a proprietary light detection and ranging, or LiDAR, system.




In its lawsuit filed with a U.S. District Court in San Francisco, Waymo claims Otto co-founder and former employee Anthony Levandowski stole plans for a LiDAR circuit board design, a component that enables self-driving cars to "see" their surroundings, reports Recode. Levandowski allegedly downloaded the plans and 14,000 "highly confidential" documents from a Waymo company computer before leaving the company.

According to the suit, Waymo was inadvertently tipped off to Levandowski's supposed act of corporate espionage when a current employee was copied to an email thread from a LiDAR supplier working with Otto. The email, to which drawings of the LiDAR circuit board were attached, was sent out to a list of people thought to be Uber employees.

Following an investigation of Levandowski's company computer, Waymo in February filed a public records request with the Nevada Governor's Office of Economic Development and Department of Motor Vehicles asking for any communications the department had with Otto. In that correspondence, Otto claims to be using a custom designed LiDAR system built by its own engineers, leading Waymo to call foul.

"While Waymo developed its custom LiDAR systems with sustained effort over many years, Defendants leveraged stolen information to shortcut the process and purportedly build a comparable LiDAR system in only nine months," the suit reads. "As of August 2016, Uber had no in-house solution for LiDAR -- despite 18 months with their faltering Carnegie Mellon University effort -- and they acquired Otto to get it."

Along with Levandowski's alleged indiscretions, Waymo claims other former employees who later went to work at Otto downloaded "supplier lists, manufacturing details and statements of work with highly technical information" from their workstations before resigning.

Further complicating matters is Google's $250 million investment in Uber. Initially ideal bedfellows, the partnership between Alphabet and Uber has quickly devolved as the companies accelerate development of competing self-driving car technologies.

Apple, too, is rumored to be working on its own self-driving automotive systems. Once thought to be developing a full-fledged vehicle, Apple has turned its focus to supporting subsystems. Most recently, the Cupertino tech giant was said to be experimenting with virtual and augmented reality technology that can be applied to in-car features like navigation.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 13
    Curious that Alphabet thinks that all the work Apple did producing the iPhone should be free to copy because it was the right way to do it, and obvious in hindsight. But protects it's own IP furiously and completely.
    ravnorodomcalibrian greenanantksundarampatchythepiratewatto_cobrabadmonk
  • Reply 2 of 13
    anomeanome Posts: 1,094member
    indyfx said:
    Curious that Alphabet thinks that all the work Apple did producing the iPhone should be free to copy because it was the right way to do it, and obvious in hindsight. But protects it's own IP furiously and completely.
    That's how business works. Do whatever you can to keep ahead, while trying to prevent anyone else from doing the same thing to you.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 13
    indyfx said:
    Curious that Alphabet thinks that all the work Apple did producing the iPhone should be free to copy because it was the right way to do it, and obvious in hindsight. But protects it's own IP furiously and completely.
    A better example would be Java, which Google literally stole the exact APIs.
    calirandominternetpersonbrian greenpatchythepirateStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 13
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    What a mess this company is. 
    patchythepiratewatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 13
    When I first scanned the headline I thought the self-driving car itself was suing Otto and Uber.
  • Reply 6 of 13
    The Alphabet technology is just round corners on a circuit board. :P
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 13
    cali said:
    What a mess this company is. 
    Which one?  :p
  • Reply 8 of 13
    Ha ha ha. What goes around comes around....
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 13
    OMG, Ubber and Otto stole Waymo?

    First of all, WTF is the world coming to with these company names? lol

    Secondly, Google's case is weak at best.  Google will lose this case against Ubber and Otto.
    It looks like Google is very sloppy with its IP to let a departing employee easily copy and leave with data.
    Companies like Google normally have a "nothing comes in, nothing leaves" employee working policy and they enforce it by design of the work environment.

    Levandowski and friends probably did not steal anything.  They worked on the project, they know how it works and they are not under NDA so they can redo it from scratch.

    Don't feel bad for Google because they are being served some of their own medicine.  
    Google did much worse to PayPal in order to create Google Wallet aka Android Pay.
    http://money.cnn.com/2011/05/27/technology/paypal-sues-google/
    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-google-paypal-idUSTRE74Q05620110527

    Google also bought Android from Andy Ruben after Andy learned enough tricks working at Apple to create Android.
    Google ended up stealing Java from Oracle and use legal tricks to this day o avoid paying a dime to Oracle.

    So now if Otto does the same thing to Google, so be it.

    Live, Kill and Die by the sword...



    edited February 2017 patchythepiratewatto_cobrastourquebadmonk
  • Reply 10 of 13
    steven n.steven n. Posts: 1,047member
    OMG, Ubber and Otto stole Waymo?

    First of all, WTF is the world coming to with these company names? lol

    Secondly, Google's case is weak at best.  Google will lose this case against Ubber and Otto.
    It looks like Google is very sloppy with its IP to let a departing employee easily copy and leave with data.
    Companies like Google normally have a "nothing comes in, nothing leaves" employee working policy and they enforce it by design of the work environment.

    Levandowski and friends probably did not steal anything.  They worked on the project, they know how it works and they are not under NDA so they can redo it from scratch.

    Don't feel bad for Google because they are being served some of their own medicine.  
    Google did much worse to PayPal in order to create Google Wallet aka Android Pay.
    http://money.cnn.com/2011/05/27/technology/paypal-sues-google/
    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-google-paypal-idUSTRE74Q05620110527

    Google also bought Android from Andy Ruben after Andy learned enough tricks working at Apple to create Android.
    Google ended up stealing Java from Oracle and use legal tricks to this day o avoid paying a dime to Oracle.

    So now if Otto does the same thing to Google, so be it.

    Live, Kill and Die by the sword...



    That is karma. I hadn't read that. Both companies rotten to the core. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 13
    bells said:
    indyfx said:
    Curious that Alphabet thinks that all the work Apple did producing the iPhone should be free to copy because it was the right way to do it, and obvious in hindsight. But protects it's own IP furiously and completely.
    A better example would be Java, which Google literally stole the exact APIs.
    Except writing drop-in-replacements has been standard practice in the software industry for decades. They did not copy the actual implementing code, just like how Linux and BSD are independent implementations of AT&T's Unix APIs, or how Wine reimplements all the Windows APIs, or how Windows 10 implements the Linux kernel APIs https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_Subsystem_for_Linux
    edited February 2017
  • Reply 12 of 13
    ronmgronmg Posts: 163member
    Ha. Karma's a real bitch!!
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 13
    Patents can be infringed, not stolen, because for a patent to be granted the information surrounding the invention must be disclosed and that disclosure leads to the review and possible granting of the patent, which is a time-limited monopoly for that particular implementation.
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