The Industry

Uber and Waymo Settle Their Legal Fight After an Awkward Week in Court

Dara Khosrowshahi issued a statement on the settlement expressing regrets.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi issued a statement on the settlement expressing regrets.
Michael Cohen/Getty Images for The New York Times

After a tense, often absurd week in court, Uber and Waymo on Friday settled a long-running intellectual property lawsuit regarding the alleged theft of self-driving car trade secrets. Courtroom highlights included Waymo’s lawyers playing the “greed is good” speech from the movie Wall Street (because former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick had texted about it) and Judge William Alsup’s no-nonsense smack downs.

Uber agreed to pay Waymo a 0.34 equity stake at Uber’s $72 billion valuation—the payout should be around $245 million, according to the Verge. Uber has also promised not to use any of Waymo’s confidential information.

The dispute between the two companies stems from Uber’s 2016 acquisition of an A.I. trucks startup owned by Anthony Levandowski, who had recently left his post as a head engineer at Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving car branch. Levandowski allegedly took thousands of emails, schematics, photos, and other files with him when leaving Waymo. The company sued Uber last February, accusing Levandowski of sharing the confidential intellectual property with Uber’s self-driving car team. Uber denied the allegations, although the company fired Levandowski after he refused to cooperate with its investigation into the incident.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi (who took over the company after the alleged events took place) released a lengthy reconciliatory statement on the settlement. While still asserting that he does not believe Uber possessed any of Waymo’s trade secrets, he nevertheless admitted, “Uber’s acquisition of Otto could and should have been handled differently.” Khosrowshahi further wrote, “The prospect that a couple of Waymo employees may have inappropriately solicited others to join Otto, and that they may have potentially left with Google files in their possession, in retrospect, raised some hard questions.”

Waymo also released a statement, which reads, “We have reached an agreement with Uber that we believe will protect Waymo’s intellectual property now and into the future. We are committed to working with Uber to make sure that each company develops its own technology. This includes an agreement to ensure that any Waymo confidential information is not being incorporated in Uber Advanced Technologies Group hardware and software. 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.”

Uber had a rough 2017, with a series of scandals that led to the resignation of CEO Travis Kalanick. After Khosrowshahi’s hiring, the company spent the last few months of the year trying to fix its image.

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