In the latest twist in the legal dispute between Alphabet’s Waymo and Uber, the latter claims that it all comes down to a $120 million bonus, not stealing trade secrets. For those unfamiliar with the matter, former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski is at the heart of the whole issue. Levandowski was part of Google’s self-driving car unit, but left the project to found the Otto startup that Uber later acquired. On his way out, Levandowski allegedly stole more than 14,000 documents from Google’s parent company, Alphabet. The documents contained confidential information and trade secrets and Waymo’s lawyers argue that Levandowski was already in talks with Uber before leaving Alphabet. Uber, for its part, previously stated that it developed its self-driving car technology with minimal involvement from Levandowski and it now claims that the engineer actually took those documents from Alphabet to grab a $120 million bonus.
On Friday, Uber argued that Levandowski downloaded the documents in question not to steal trade secrets and give them to Uber, but merely to secure that hefty bonus. More specifically, Levandowski allegedly downloaded those documents to use them as evidence to justify that he deserved that $120 million bonus, which he actually got from Alphabet. The engineer just held onto the documents for longer than he should have, even after getting the bonus, said Uber. Levandowski reportedly told then-Uber CEO Travis Kalanick about the documents, which he was supposed to destroy when Uber acquired Otto. Uber has repeatedly claimed that its self-driving car technology has nothing to do with the files Levandowski grabbed from Google. As the legal dispute between Uber and Waymo unraveled, Levandowski ultimately lost his position at Uber.
An Uber spokesperson now added that even if Levandowski is indeed guilty of what Waymo is accusing him, he did what he did as a Google employee and his reasons were not related to Uber, it was all about the money – that $120 million bonus, to be precise. Uber even proposed a comprehensive line of questioning to steer the process in this direction, with more than 10 questions referring to how keen Levandowski was on securing that $120 million bonus. Waymo, meanwhile, argued that Uber is just making false claims to draw attention away from the evidence that it used trade secrets Levandowski stole from Google. Waymo says it filed the lawsuit in the first place because it stumbled upon evidence that Uber’s technology used stolen Waymo files, and Uber’s theories and claims, including the latest that Levandowski just wanted a bonus, are just tricks aiming to distract from the main issue.