Waymo settles dispute with Uber

Anthony Levandowski

Anthony Levandowski

Uber has settled a lawsuit alleging that it ripped off self-driving auto technology from Google's autonomous vehicle division.

The surprise settlement announced Friday came as lawyers for Uber and Waymo, a company hatched from Google, prepared to wrap up the first week of a trial that had attracted worldwide attention.

Despite the result, ex-Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has been quoted as saying: "Had the trial proceeded to its conclusion, it is clear Uber would have prevailed".

Uber subsequently dismissed Levandowski after claiming that he had failed to co-operate with court terms as part of the investigation.

After spending almost a week in the courtroom, Waymo and Uber came to an agreement on Friday, Feb. 9, in which the latter will pay the Google/Alphabet division a significant sum of money (in our view - perhaps not in Google's). The people asked not to be identified because the settlement talks were confidential. "The settlement includes an agreement to ensure that Waymo confidential information is not being incorporated into Uber technology, which Waymo has said was its main goal in bringing the lawsuit".

The payment, to be made in Uber's stock, is a fraction of the almost $2 billion in damages that a Waymo expert had estimated Uber's alleged theft had caused. The judge in the case didn't allow that figure into the trial.

"This has the look of two companies trying to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat", said Dan Handman, a Los Angeles lawyer specializing in trade secrets for the firm Hirschfeld Kraemer.

The jury was also shown a clip - sent from Levandowski to Kalanick - from the 1987 film "Wall Street" in which the Michael Douglas lead character proclaims "greed is good". The payout likely spared Levandowski from some public scrutiny, as, according to The Verge, he was expected to invoke the Fifth Amendment when he took the stand.

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Sochi Games silver medallist Staale Sandbech was fourth, with teenage sensation Marcus Kleveland a disappointing sixth. He also managed to edge Parrot, who turned in his best score of the day on his third and final run.

Levandowski, who was on the list as a possible witness, left Google for his own startup called Otto, which was later acquired by Uber.

In the end, Uber's settlement with Waymo doesn't require it to pay out a particularly large sum of money or change its self-driving auto plans, but the yearlong litigation still brought to light many unflattering details about the and its former CEO, .

Kalanick remained adamant in a statement Friday that facts of the case were on Uber's side. It's a deal that one of Uber's own attorneys acknowledged the company now regrets.

In a seperate statement, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi doubled down on the company's previous defense that it didn't use any of Waymo's ideas.

Waymo alleges that Levandowski heisted eight trade secrets from Google before he departed from the company in January 2016. Uber learned of Levandowski's actions but still went ahead with the deal, Waymo claimed.

"If you are an Uber investor, you should be pleased with the outcome, given what could have happened if they had lost", said Rohit Kulkarni, managing director of SharesPost, a research group focused on privately held companies. "We are committed to working with Uber to ensure that each company develops its own technologies, which means that no proprietary information belonging to Waymo should be included in Uber's software", she added. "Waymo's legal team has tried to paint Uber and Kalanick as desperate to catch up to its self-driving vehicle efforts ". Kalanick said, "I don't know, I don't remember".

Alphabet had another reason to settle. The settlement gives Alphabet an additional 0.34 percent of Uber's outstanding stock, based on an investment round that placed the company's market value at $72 billion. "And while we won't agree on everything going forward, we agree that Uber's acquisition of Otto could and should have been handled differently".

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