Alphabet, the parent company of the search giant Google, has submitted another court filing against ride-sharing company Uber. This time, Alphabet alleges that Uber is hiding from the court a device developed from the intellectual property stolen from Alphabet’s subsidiary, Waymo. According to Alphabet’s recent court filing, Anthony Levandowski, a former Alphabet executive, designed a device based on the stolen technology from his former employer, with the device allegedly in the safekeeping of Uber. To prevent Uber from continuously developing devices from the alleged stolen intellectual property, Alphabet has filed a motion for preliminary injunction to stop Uber from working on self-driving vehicles. In response to Alphabet’s recent court filings, Uber reiterated it is not hiding anything and it did not steal, or infringe, any patents related to its self-driving vehicles.
The entire court saga between Alphabet and Waymo centered around the allegedly malicious actions of former Alphabet executive Anthony Levandowski. Levandowski resigned from Google in January 2016, taking with him around 14,000 files from his former employer, according to Alphabet’s lawsuit. Soon afterward, Levandowski formed a startup company named Otto, which was later bought by Uber for $680 million last year. According to Alphabet, it received evidence that Otto and Uber are working on a circuit board that has a striking resemblance to a top-secret LiDAR circuit board Waymo is developing, leading Alphabet to file a lawsuit against Uber and Otto.
Uber’s acquisition of Otto has been very important in the ride-sharing company’s efforts in developing self-driving vehicles. Aside from Levandowski’s know-how of autonomous vehicles, Otto is also employing several former Waymo engineers working on self-driving vehicles, giving Uber the expertise to develop its own autonomous vehicles. In addition to its own technologies and engineers, Otto itself has acquired several businesses when it was an independent startup working on autonomous trucks, with each acquisition bringing its own talent pool and technologies. Among them is Tyto Lidar, a startup company specializing in the development of LiDAR solutions, which when combined with cameras and software, help self-driving cars maneuver by building complex 3D maps of surrounding environment. If Alphabet succeeds in this legal battle against Uber, it will be a devastating blow to Uber’s self-driving vehicle efforts and may force the ride-sharing company to return to square one especially if Waymo refuses to license its patents to Uber.