Tech Titans Uber, Waymo Face Off in Trade Secret Trial


Accusations of corporate espionage and trade secret theft are unfolding in a San Francisco federal courtroom between two of the tech world’s cutting-edge innovators in what is shaping up to be the trial of the decade for a dispute of its kind.

Pitting ride-sharing startup Uber against Google’s Waymo self-driving vehicle division, the lawsuit paints a picture of two companies hell-bent on winning the race to dominate the self-driving car market. It also highlights how far companies will go to guard valuable internal information and intellectual property and protect their competitive positions, says attorney Joe Ahmad of Houston’s Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C., or AZA.

Waymo filed the lawsuit in early 2017 after learning that autonomous vehicle visionary Anthony Levandowski had taken thousands of confidential files before leaving to join Uber’s self-driving vehicle project. Waymo is seeking nearly $2 billion in damages for the stolen secrets. Uber’s defense is complicated by Mr. Levandowski, who was fired from Uber for refusing to answer subpoenas and is now planning to exercise his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination.

This trial is providing an inside look at the personalities and workplace culture in Silicon Valley where staying ahead in the race to innovate is seen as key to survival, Mr. Ahmad says. Testimony will offer a glimpse inside these companies that few have seen, and all eyes will be on whether the key player (Mr. Levandowski) takes the stand to describe what happened in his own words.

The allegations in this case are extreme examples, and the monetary damages at stake are breathtaking. But the core dispute in this case is something that businesses of all types are dealing with today, Mr. Ahmad says. These are real information-age struggles we’re seeing in the business world: How do you protect the information that gives a business a competitive advantage? It also highlights the perils that come when star employees change jobs in competitive industries.

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Robert Tharp at 800-559-4534 or Robert@androvett.com.

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