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Levandowski Criminally Charged – Theft of Trade Secrets

Image of Waymo car Levandowski Charged

Levandowski Charged

Lidar News provided a number of posts beginning in October 2017 involving Anthony Levandowski and his involvement in a Waymo vs. Uber patent lawsuit. The case was eventually settled in Waymo’s favor. The judge in  the case recommended that the Feds pursue a criminal case against Levandowksi who took the 5th during the lawsuit. I guess the Feds were listening.

From an article in Silicon Angle by Maria Deutscher.

Federal prosecutors have filed trade secret theft charges against Anthony Levandowski, a prominent autonomous driving engineer who sparked a lawsuit between Uber Technologies Inc. and Google LLC.

The criminal complaint was released today by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California. The government is charging Levandowski with 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets from Google.

Levandowski, an autonomous car pioneer who helped build some of the world’s earliest driverless vehicles, started his career at the search giant in 2007. Two years later, he joined the internal project that would eventually become the foundation of Google’s Waymo LLC autonomous driving business.

Levandowski remained at Waymo until departing in 2016 and the legal drama began soon after. The spark was lit when Levandowski sold Otto Inc., an autonomous truck startup he started the same year with a Google colleague, to Uber Technologies Inc. for a reported $680 million. In response, Waymo filed a lawsuit accusing Uber of buying Otto to obtain intellectual property Levandowski had stolen prior to leaving.

The companies’ dispute ended in 2017 when Uber agreed to pay the Google subsidiary an equity settlement worth about $245 million at the time. However, the ride-hailng company fired Levandowski and the judge overseeing the case recommended that federal prosecutors open a criminal investigation.

The indictment published today sheds new light on the alleged intellectual property theft. Prosecutors charge that Levandowski unlawfully downloaded about 14,000 files onto a personal laptop in the months leading up to his departure from Waymo, where he led the lidar sensor engineering team. The stolen file trove allegedly includes lidar schematics and other engineering data as well as business documents.

Levandowski faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and $250,000 fine per count if convicted. In a statement quoted by the The Verge, his attorneys wrote that “for more than a decade, Anthony Levandowski has been an industry-leading innovator in self-driving technologies. He didn’t steal anything, from anyone. This case rehashes claims already discredited in a civil case that settled more than a year and a half ago.”

A Waymo spokesperson stated that “we have always believed competition should be fueled by innovation, and we appreciate the work of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI on this case.”

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