Uber Says It Didn’t Know About Stolen Waymo Files

In court documents, Uber said it was unaware of any alleged data theft by former employee Anthony Levandowski.

byStephen Edelstein| UPDATED Jun 29, 2017 10:33 AM
Uber Says It Didn’t Know About Stolen Waymo Files

Uber says it was unaware of the alleged intellectual property theft at the heart of its ongoing legal battle with Waymo. It claims it was unaware of the possibility that engineer Anthony Levandowski stole 14,000 self-driving car files from Waymo until it was brought up in the lawsuit filed by Waymo, the former Google self-driving car project, in February.

"Prior to the filing of this lawsuit, no one at Uber knew that Levandowski had downloaded any Google proprietary information for any improper purpose or that he had deliberately taken any Google proprietary information with him when he left Google," Uber said in court documents obtained by CNET.

The statement is an apparent attempt by Uber to distance itself from one of Waymo's main accusations. Waymo's case rests on the idea that Levandowski stole self-driving car data before leaving the company to found autonomous truck startup Otto, and that Uber used that data for its own self-driving car project after buying Otto.

Uber has consistently denied that it used any stolen Waymo trade secrets. In this latest court filing, the company said it believed any file downloading was related to ensuring Levandowski received an expected $120 million bonus from Waymo, not anything having to do with Uber. In essence, the ride-sharing company appears to be claiming it was aware that Levandowski had downloaded some files, but not the ones Waymo is talking about.

Uber also made what seems like an attempt to respond to accusations by Waymo that recently-ousted CEO Travis Kalanick knew about the allegedly stolen trade secrets. Using Uber lawyers' responses to its questions, Waymo claimed Kalanick knew about the 14,000 files, and urged Levandowski not to bring them to Uber. The lawyers reportedly revealed that to discredit Waymo's claim that Uber used the stolen data.

According to Uber's filing, during negotiations to buy Otto, Levandowski told Kalanick and other Uber executives that he had found five discs containing Waymo information in his home. Kalanick "emphatically" told Levandowski that Uber didn't want that information, and Levandowski later reported that he had destroyed the discs, the filing said.

What's unclear is whether those discs contained the alleged information Waymo is accusing Uber of using in its self-driving car program. The man at the center of all this, Levandowski, pled the Fifth Amendment in this lawsuit, and was recently fired by Uber for not cooperating with the company's efforts to fight the suit.