A judge has handed Anthony Levandowski an 18 months prison sentence for one count of stealing trade secrets which is heavily linked to the Uber-Waymo lawsuit. Tech Crunch reports that the self-driving car engineer will not have to report until the threat of Covid-19 has passed.
This comes after at $4 billion lawsuit between Uber and Waymo which has resulting in Levandowski receiving a prison sentence. This lawsuit has begun in 2017 and was settled relatively quickly but has now resurfaced with a new claim in July. However, the case against Levandowski himself has taken longer to come to fruition. Back when it first surfaced many felt it had the potential to impact the auto industry massively.
Background to the Uber-Waymo lawsuit
Levandowski was a founding member of the 2009 Google self-driving project. He was paid $127 million for his working whilst at the company. He then left in 2016 to found a company called Otto which was acquired eight months later by Uber.
After the acquisition, Google made arbitration demands against Levandowski but not Uber itself. However, due to the indemnification agreement between Uber and Levandowski the company were compelled to defend him.
Waymo also filed a lawsuit against Uber in February 2017 for trade secret theft as the arbitrations played out. The parties reached an agreement forcing Uber not to use Waymo’s confidential information in their hardware and software.
Things then took a dramatic turn in July when Levandowski filed a new lawsuit in July. He claimed that the terms of the Uber-Waymo settlement included an agreement that Uber would never hire or work with him again. He argues this resulted in Uber going back on promises made to him.
The lawsuit also includes claims that Levandowski was not the only ex-Google employee to take trade secrets with him. The suit claims that leaked trade secrets came from areas Levandowski never worked on so must have come from someone else.
Levandowski’s 2020 criminal battle
The U.S. District Attorney charged Levandowski with 33 counts of theft in August 2019. This prompted Levandowski to step down from his position as CEO of his new startup company.
Levandowski reached a plea agreement with the District Attorney which meant avoiding a lengthy legal battle and a long prison sentence. He admitted to downloading thousands of files related to Project Chauffeur. In essence, this means pleading guilty to count 33 of his charges.
That brings us to the present day and Levandowski’s sentencing. The Judge said home confinement was never an option. He pointed out that this would “[give] a green light to every future brilliant engineer to steal trade secrets. Prison time is the answer to that.”
Levandowski has apologised for his actions and shown significant remorse as reported by Engadget. He said, “The last three and a half years have forced me to come to terms with what I did.” He went on to note that I want to take this time to apologize to my colleagues at Google for betraying their trust, and to my entire family for the price they have paid and will continue to pay for my actions.”
Levandowski’s legal battle with Uber is still no concluded as he fights the company for a settlement. Given the Covid-19 situation, he could have been sentenced as bankrupt but go to prison as a billionaire when he eventually has to commit.