The trial between Uber and Waymo over alleged trade secret theft led to the public disclosure of some new details surrounding Uber’s 2016 acquisition of Otto, a self-driving truck startup founded by Anthony Levandowski who Waymo alleges stole some of its intellectual property and used it to advance the ride-hailing startup’s own autonomous driving technologies. Uber co-founder and former Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick was examined by Waymo’s lawyers in the court of law on Tuesday as part of his first public appearance since leaving the San Francisco, California-based company last summer. No major revelations were provided by Mr. Kalanick yesterday, though his testimony continued Wednesday morning, revealing more details on his time at the firm.
While initial reports suggested Uber paid approximately $680 million for Mr. Levandowski’s startup, the deal was actually worth up to $592 million, depending on technical milestones. Only $100,000 in cash actually exchanged hands in terms of upfront fees, with the majority of the acquisition’s value being delivered as stock in the form of around 12 million shares. Mr. Kalanick testified that he signed the deal without reading the due diligence report on the firm, adding the did the same with the indemnification report. In a previous exchange of text messages between Mr. Kalanick and Mr. Levandowski, the latter referred to the due diligence questionnaire he was provided with as “dumb” and told Uber’s former CEO he was also squeezing his lawyers “like toothpaste.” When directly asked to reflect on the correspondence by Waymo’s lawyers, Mr. Kalanick said he doesn’t remember whether he was pressuring Uber’s attorneys working on the Otto deal enough to warrant such analogies.
During a subsequent cross-examination, Mr. Kalanick told the startup’s representatives that Mr. Levandowski was never asked for any trade secrets from his time at Google’s self-driving subsidiary which was spun off into Waymo in late 2016. He also defended his definition of “cheat codes,” a term he often used during meetings with Uber’s executives, according to Waymo’s evidence; when asked to elaborate on the matter, Mr. Kalanick described cheat codes as “elegant solutions” for issues no one thought of before. Mr. Levandowski isn’t officially named as the defendant in the case and has already pleaded the Fifth Amendment when asked to testify. Waymo claims the former employee stole over 14,000 documents from Google and used them to copy its laser sensor called LiDAR at Uber. The trial is scheduled to continue with witness testimonies for twelve more days.