Over the past 12 months the Waymo vs. Uber lawsuit has resulted in an agreement by Uber to re-design its lidar so as not to infringe on the key “936 Waymo patent,” as well as a payment of $245 million in stock by Uber to Waymo, but not so fast.
Thanks to an interested bystander who had only his intellectual curiosity to motivate him, the 936 Waymo patent, after more detailed review has been all but completely rejected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Only three of the 56 claims were upheld after Eric Swildens filed a complaint with the USPTO. Swildens is not receiving any compensation for his efforts, at least on this case.
Upon more detailed review, the USPTO found that some of the claims were replicating a previously approved Velodyne patent, while another claim was ruled “impossible” and “magic.” A lot of money was spent on lawyers and experts regarding this case largely based on the existence of Waymo patent 936. Looks like that was a waste of money.
Swildens is not receiving any compensation for his efforts. “The patent shouldn’t have been filed in the first place,” he said. “It’s a very well written patent. However, my personal belief is that the thing that they say they invented, they didn’t invent. Waymo’s claim that Uber infringed their 936 patent was spurious, as all the claims in the patent that existed at the time of the lawsuit have been found to be invalid,” he said.
Swildens does not work for Uber or for Velodyne, nor for any other self-driving car developer—he works for a small cloud computing startup. He became interested in the patent when it surfaced during the Uber case, and he saw how simple Waymo’s lidar circuit seemed to be. “I couldn’t imagine the circuit didn’t exist prior to this patent,” he told Wired last year.
Swildens’ research uncovered several patents and books that seemed to pre-date the Waymo patent. He then spent $6,000 of his own money to launch a formal challenge to 936. Waymo fought back, making dozens of filings, bringing expert witnesses to bear, and attempting to re-write several of the patent’s claims and diagrams to safeguard its survival.
Now it may be Velodyne’s turn to sue Waymo for infringing on its patent, but first it has to deal with Quanergy who says Velodyne’s patent is invalid.
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