UBER’S AUTO-DRIVING TECHNOLOGY MAY BE INFRINGING ON INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS
In February 2018, Uber reached a settlement with self-driving technology company Waymo concerning allegations of intellectual property theft. Waymo had sued Uber, claiming that its autonomous vehicle technology misappropriated its trade secrets. As part of the agreement, an independent investigator was hired to look into Waymo’s allegations.
The end results seem to have confirmed Waymo’s suspicions. “The independent software expert recently made adverse findings as to certain functions in our autonomous vehicle software,” Uber said. Now, the company may either need to come to a licensing agreement with Waymo or make changes to its technology.
The agreement came after five days of trial in 2018. Observers were expecting protracted court action, lasting at least another week. With the settlement, the case was dismissed with prejudice (which prevents Waymo from bringing the same claim later). The investigator’s findings, which Uber says are final, now force the company into either a licensing agreement or design changes. These changes, Uber says, will delay or limit development of its autonomous vehicle technology.
Waymo originated as a Google project, and their troubles with Uber have an extensive history. Anthony Levandowski, a former Google engineer, was accused of stealing trade secrets and taking them to Uber. He was recently charged with theft and attempted theft of Google’s trade secrets. Levandowski was alleged to have stolen approximately 14,000 documents from his former employer.
Now known as Waymo, the self-driving technology company says the investigator’s findings confirmed its allegations. Since Uber has apparently stolen that technology, Waymo says it will take appropriate steps to protect it going forward.
The Uber-Waymo controversy is an example of what can happen when employees leave one company for another. Protecting trade secrets in this context is difficult and requires careful attention and oversight of employees. Waymo (formerly Google) was vulnerable to the tune of thousands of documents, which led to the current investigation.
It’s impossible, of course, to guarantee that a company won’t have its intellectual property stolen. In the technology world, especially, these incidents do occur. But your company can enact policies and take other preventative measures to minimize the likelihood of intellectual property theft. That takes the skill and experience of a law firm like Eddington & Worley. Our attorneys can discuss tailor-made ways to secure your company’s intellectual property assets and protect your bottom line.
We can also talk to you about steps to take in the event of a trade secret or other theft. In the Uber case, Waymo took the fight directly to Uber in federal court. The case shows how even after litigation begins, two competing sides can come to a mutually agreeable settlement. Waymo adopted the strategy of requiring an independent investigation before it agreed to dismiss its lawsuit. The approach paid off, as the investigation appeared to confirm the company’s allegations.
If your company has experienced intellectual property theft, this could be an option. Or you may need something a little bit different, depending on the circumstances. Eddington & Worley understands that there are a multitude of legal strategies a company can take to remedy theft. In your case, if a settlement is possible, we can ensure it is comprehensive and protects your company’s interests. But if litigation is necessary, we will work hard to defend your rights in court.
FIGHTING TO PROTECT WHAT MATTERS MOST
You may need a law firm to pursue litigation to enforce your company’s intellectual property rights. Or perhaps you want to make sure a breach doesn’t happen by enacting internal company policies. Either way, we can help. The attorneys of Eddington & Worley are experienced in all aspects of intellectual property law. The best step you can take is to act now. Give us a call and let us fight for what matters most to your company.