Waymo, the self-driving car company that spun out of Google’s Project X division, has filed a preliminary injunction against Uber and its self-driving semi-truck branch, Otto, claiming in a filing Friday that Uber stole trade secrets.
Waymo levels a laundry list of charges at Uber and Otto with one clear prerogative: shut it all down.
The preliminary injunction, filed Friday, requests that the Northern District Court of California prevent the defendant, Uber, from basically doing anything with the allegedly stolen technology. This would effectively halt Uber’s self-driving car program until the resolution of the lawsuit, which Waymo says is necessary to prevent Uber using the technology “to gain a potentially irreversible edge in the new self-driving car market.”
The lawsuit started, not by some feat of corporate espionage, but by a simple public records request and a classic email fail. Waymo executives received a data-filled email meant for Andrew Levandowski, a former Waymo employee who founded Otto, and noticed that the LIDAR system Otto was using was, well, pretty much the same as Waymo’s.
Here’s the key excerpt from the injunction’s opening, emphasis ours, with some of the legalese edited out (the “circuit board” Waymo is referring to is a diagram included by accident in the fateful email mistake):
Plaintiff Waymo LLC (“Waymo”) shall and hereby does move the Court for a preliminary injunction prohibiting Defendants [Uber and Otto] from accessing, using, imitating, copying, disclosing, or making available to any person or entity Waymo’s Asserted Trade Secrets, including but not limited to the Asserted Trade Secrets as embodied in LiDAR systems that contain or are designed to operate with the printed circuit board depicted in the schematic attached … or any colorable variation thereof. Waymo further requests that Defendants be enjoined from making, using, selling, or offering to sell devices that infringe [claims on a whole bunch of U.S. Patents owned by Waymo]. Further, Waymo requests that Defendants be compelled to return any and all Waymo confidential information in their possession or control, including the 14,000+ documents unlawfully taken from Waymo by Mr. Anthony Levandowski and his colleagues.
Then, Waymo got a little saucy. In the injunction’s preliminary statement, the company basically crapped on Uber, which has experienced an extraordinary fall from grace in the past few months. The statement touts Waymo’s rapid accomplishments in self-driving tech, and then turns to Uber like a vindictive mean-girl tattling on another student for copying their homework.