Waymo now way less: Robo-ride upstart drops patents in Uber battle

Angelica Greene
July 8, 2017

The Alphabet-owned self-driving auto upstart said in a filing [PDF] in California on Friday that it would drop allegations of patent infringement with prejudice.

"As set forth in Uber's letter brief, Larry Page has first-hand non-repetitive knowledge of relevant facts", a court filing reads.

"The bottom line is the evidence indicates that Uber hired Levandowski even though it knew or should have known that he possessed over 14,000 confidential Waymo files likely containing Waymo's intellectual property; that at least some information from those files, if not the files themselves, has seeped into Uber's own LiDAR development efforts; and that at least some of said information likely qualifies for trade secret protection", he said in a decision.

A USA judge on Friday ruled that Alphabet Inc's self-driving vehicle unit Waymo must disclose documents to attorneys representing Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] about Waymo's partnership with Lyft Inc, saying the information could be important in Waymo's lawsuit accusing Uber of stealing some of its trade secrets. Lidar, a kind of radar technology that uses lasers instead of radio waves, is the key component in self-driving cars that allows the vehicles to "see" the world around them.

"Uber has assured the court in statements made under penalty of perjury that it no longer uses and will not use that [Spider] device, so we have narrowed the issues for trial by dismissing the patent claims as to that device, with the right to re-file suit if needed", a Waymo spokesperson told Ars via e-mail.

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At the insistence of the presiding U.S. District Judge, Waymo has reduced the number of patent-infringement claims it is waging against Uber to all but one. Waymo is permitted to reassert its claims if Uber returns to the design that Waymo challenged. Levandowski has invoked his Fifth Amendment rights throughout the process, and his lawyers were not immediately available for comment.

From Uber's perspective, however, this is not a simplification but a sign that Waymo's case is weakening.

Uber fired Levandowski in May after Levandowski declined to help the ride-hailing giant with its defense against Waymo's claims.

"Levandowski downloaded the files in connection with ensuring payment of his $120 million Google bonus", an Uber spokesperson said. He's suggested they drop the patent portion of their case entirely to streamline the extremely fast-moving litigation, which is scheduled for an October trial. A month ago Judge Alsup also advised Waymo that they should seriously consider dropping the patent claims.

Other reports by GizPress

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