After Settling With Uber, Waymo Targets Engineer Anthony Levandowski for Trade Secrets
Levandowski's actions touched off the massive Uber-Waymo legal battle.
The alleged theft of trade secrets by engineer Anthony Levandowski touched off the massive legal battle between Waymo and Uber that recently concluded with a settlement between the two companies. But the settlement did not address Levandowski's role, and now he's being forced to defend himself against Waymo accusations, reports Bloomberg.
Waymo accuses Levandowski of siphoning resources to his Otto self-driving truck startup, which was later bought by Uber. The case, which is being handled in private arbitration, will also address $120 million of incentive payments made by Waymo to Levandowski while he was still an employee.
Levandowski and Lior Ron left Waymo to form Otto, and then sold the startup to Uber in 2016. Waymo filed a lawsuit against Uber in early 2017, alleging that the ride-hailing giant used trade secrets acquired through Otto. Levandowski was subsequently fired by Uber for not cooperating with efforts to fight the Waymo lawsuit, and Ron is said to have left the company more recently.
Uber and Waymo settled their lawsuit in February, with Uber agreeing to pay $245 million in equity as part of the deal. But arbitration between Waymo and Levandowski could draw Uber back into the legal mess. As part of the deal to acquire Otto, Uber agreed to provide Levandowski with indemnification against legal claims by Waymo, according to Bloomberg.
The indemnification obligation could put Uber on the hook for the incentive payments that are part of the case, according to a legal expert consulted by Bloomberg. But the news service also noted that it's odd that claims against Levandowski weren't addressed in the original settlement between Uber and Waymo.
A second legal battle with Waymo is the last thing Uber needs right now. A recent fatal crash has been a major blow to the company's self-driving car program. Meanwhile, Waymo is pushing ahead with plans to launch an autonomous ride-hailing service, and will acquire a fleet of Jaguar I-Pace electric SUVs.