Uber to Give Waymo a $245 Million Equity Stake as Settlement is Reached in IP Theft Trial

Author: Eric Walz   

SAN FRANCISCO — Uber and Waymo announced an unexpected settlement agreement on Friday, just days after the high-stakes jury trial began in federal court. Waymo accused Uber of using its trade secret in its self-driving cars.

Under terms of the settlement, Uber will give Waymo, Google's self-driving car spinoff, a 0.34 percent stake in Uber. Uber, the world's most valuable startup, was most recently valued at $72 billion, so that stake is worth approximately $245 million. The settlement amount is far less than what Waymo originally was seeking, Waymo had initially sought damages of $1.9 billion.

Waymo said in a statement that the settlement would protect its "intellectual property now and into the future."

Uber maintained that it has not used any trade secrets from Waymo, but pledged not to use any of Waymo's proprietary information in its hardware or software, according to a statement from Waymo.

In a statement, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi wrote, "To be clear, while we do not believe that any trade secrets made their way from Waymo to Uber, nor do we believe that Uber has used any of Waymo's proprietary information in its self-driving technology, we are taking steps with Waymo to ensure our Lidar and software represents just our good work."

Uber hired former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski to head its self-driving car program. Levandowski allegedly downloaded 14,000 files (9.7 GB of data) and IP from Google's servers related to self driving when he left Google to start the autonomous trucking company Otto, which resulted in the lawsuit by Waymo.

Just months later, Uber purchased Otto for $680 million in an effort jumpstart its own self-driving car efforts.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, in a statement after the settlement was announced, said that the Otto acquisition should have been handled differently.

The trial was the first time the public had heard directly from Kalanick since he was forced to resign as Uber CEO last June amid questions about his leadership while the company dealt with a gender discrimination and harassment scandal.

During the court proceedings this week, Waymo's attorney focused in on Kalanick's cut-throat obsession in making Uber a leader in building autonomous vehicles and his friendship with Levandowski leading up to when Uber acquired Otto. Levandowski had not yet been called to testify and was not named in the lawsuit.

In a text message exchange between the pair, Kalanick told Levandowski in March 2016 to "burn a village." Kalanick said he wasn't quite sure what he meant by that, but Levandowski apparently knew, Waymo's attorney said, because he replied, "Yup."

In meeting between Kalanick and Levandowski, Kalanick, he wrote: "Laser is the sauce!" on a whiteboard, referring to lidar. LiDAR is an essential component of self-driving vehicles, helping them to navigate. Kalanick acknowledged that Uber didn't have that "sauce" until it acquired Otto later that year.

In a statement Uber said, "We have always believed competition should be fueled by innovation in the labs and on the roads, and we look forward to bringing fully self-driving cars to the world."

Kalanick himself released a statement shortly after the Friday court session ended, he said: "Had the trial proceeded to its conclusion, it is clear Uber would have prevailed."

Eric Walz
Originally from New Jersey, Eric is an automotive and technology reporter specializing in the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley. Eric has over fifteen years of automotive experience and a B.A. in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the automotive industry and beyond. He has worked on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology. Outside of work, Eric likes to travel to new places, play guitar, and explore the outdoors.
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