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Alphabet's Waymo demands $1 billion in settlement talks with Uber: Sources

Waymo's tough negotiating stance reflects the company's confidence in its legal position

Reuters  |  San Francisco 

'Low-value' was the Alphabet engineer's assessment while investigating the downloading of files by driverless car executive Anthony Levandowski 4 months before Waymo called him a traitor in a high-stakes lawsuit. File Photo: Reuters
‘Low-value’ was the Alphabet engineer’s assessment while investigating the downloading of files by driverless car executive Anthony Levandowski 4 months before Waymo called him a traitor in a high-stakes lawsuit. File Photo: Reuters

Inc's sought at least $1 billion in damages and a public apology from Technologies Inc as conditions for settling its high-profile trade secret lawsuit against the ride-services company, sources familiar with the proposal told Reuters.

The self-driving car unit also asked that an independent monitor be appointed to ensure does not use technology in the future, the sources said.

rejected those terms as non-starters, said the sources, who were not authorised to publicly discuss settlement talks. The precise dollar amount requested by and the exact time the offer was made could not be learned.

Waymo's tough negotiating stance, which has not been previously reported, reflects the company's confidence in its legal position after months of pretrial victories in a case which may help to determine who emerges in the forefront of the fast-growing field of self-driving cars.

The aggressive settlement demands also suggest that is not in a hurry to resolve the lawsuit, in part because of its value as a distraction for leadership, said Elizabeth Rowe, a trade secret expert at the University of

recently persuaded a San Francisco federal judge to delay a trial to decide the dispute from October to early December, citing the need to investigate evidence had not disclosed earlier.

No further settlement talks are currently scheduled, the sources said. The judge overseeing the case mandated that the enter mediation with a court-appointed magistrate.

Amy Candido, a attorney, declined to comment on any settlement talks, but said the company's reasons for suing are "pretty clear."

"had one goal: to stop from using its trade secrets," she said. "That remains its goal."

An spokesperson declined to comment.

 

DISRUPTIVE

sued in February, claiming that former engineer Anthony Levandowski downloaded more than 14,000 confidential files before leaving to set up a self-driving truck company, called Otto, which acquired soon after.

denied using any of Waymo's trade secrets.

Waymo's lawsuit has been disruptive for U.S. District Judge William Alsup granted Waymo's request for a pretrial injunction in May, which prohibited Levandowski from working on Lidar, a key sensor technology for self-driving cars that is the crux of the current litigation.

later fired Levandowski, regarded as a visionary in autonomous technology, after he refused to return documents at the heart of the case. Levandowski has asserted his constitutional right against self-incrimination and declined to answer questions from lawyers.

Meanwhile, co-founder Travis Kalanick stepped down as chief executive in June after allegations of widespread misconduct at the company became public. Kalanick has since become embroiled in a boardroom fight with fellow investor Benchmark Capital.

Benchmark cited Waymo's allegations of trade secret theft in separate litigation aimed at forcing Kalanick off Uber's board. A Delaware judge put that lawsuit on hold and sent it to private arbitration.

On Sunday Oct. 1, the day before Kalanick was scheduled to give a deposition in the case, Kalanick's lawyers called and asked to postpone the deposition, lawyers for both said in court last week.

Kalanick's lawyers said he was in the middle of a fight to appoint new board members and was therefore too busy, attorneys said in court. refused the request, forcing Kalanick to attend the deposition.

 

DISTRACTING A COMPETITOR

Causing such distractions for a competitor are a clear benefit to Waymo, Rowe said. has hired three law firms to litigate the case and devoted thousands of hours to probe servers for confidential information.

"I'm counting all those as good reasons to keep the lawsuit going," Rowe said.

has estimated damages in the case at about $1.9 billion, according to court filings, which disputes. Despite that figure and the big settlement demands, views winning a permanent injunction against using any intellectual property as the main priority, another source familiar with the company's thinking said.

Much of the technical evidence in the case has been filed under seal, making it impossible for outside observers to independently assess the strength of each side's arguments. In court last week, Alsup said Uber's product was "dissimilar" from Waymo's.

Even if a jury finds that stole trade secrets, says in court filings that its engineers have designed around the technology at issue in the case. If that is true, that would lessen the impact on in the event of a defeat in court.

is skeptical of Uber's claim, however. In a court filing on Monday, it requested an order forcing to disclose its source code, or underlying software, for its Lidar products.

The subsidiary said in the filing that it recently learned that former employees took source code when they went to work at Uber, "including software related to the 'brains' of the vehicle that determines how the car moves."

First Published: Thu, October 12 2017. 13:51 IST
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