Waymo Drops Most Patent Claims in Legal Battle with Uber

Waymo dropped three of four patent-infringement claims in its lawsuit against Uber.

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Waymo has dropped three of four patent-infringement claims in its lawsuit against Uber over allegedly-stolen self-driving car tech. The former Google self-driving car project will now focus on a single patent claim related to a lidar unit, reports Bloomberg

However, this may not dramatically alter the course of the case. Waymo parent Alphabet normally does not engage in patent fights, Bloomberg notes, and the majority of its claims against Uber focus on trade secrets, not patents.

Waymo alleges that engineer Anthony Levandowski stole 14,000 confidential files before leaving to form the self-driving truck startup Otto. Levandowski joined Uber when the ride-sharing company bought Otto last year, but was recently fired for not cooperating with Uber's efforts to fight the Waymo lawsuit. Waymo believes Uber used information in the files to augment its own self-driving car tech, creating hardware similar to some of its patented designs.

In a recent court hearing, U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup asked Waymo to narrow its more than 100 trade-secret claims to less than 10 before the case goes to a jury. In a June 7 hearing, he also said Waymo should consider dropping the patent component of the case, according to Bloomberg.

Waymo said it dropped three of its original four patent claims because they relate to a lidar unit called "Spider" that Uber no longer uses. The remaining patent claim is for a different lidar design, called "Fuji." 

Lidar functions similar to radar, but uses laser light instead of radio waves to locate objects. Most companies view it as an essential part of the array of sensors that allow self-driving cars to "see."

In addition to proving that Uber possessed the 14,000 files stolen by Levandowski, Waymo must prove the ride-sharing company actually used them in its own self-driving car program. Narrowing down the number of claims may indicate that Waymo is having a hard time doing that...but Uber isn't in the clear yet.