Fri, Oct 13, 2017 - Page 10 News List

Waymo demands US$1bn from Uber

SETTLEMENT TALKS:Sources say that after months of pretrial victories, Alphabet Inc’s Waymo is confident of winning its trade secret lawsuit against ride-services firm

Reuters, SAN FRANCISCO

Alphabet Inc’s Waymo sought at least US$1 billion in damages and a public apology from Uber Technologies Inc as conditions for settling its high-profile trade secret lawsuit against the ride-services company, sources familiar with the proposal said yesterday.

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

Uber rejected those terms as non-starters, said the sources, who were not authorized to publicly discuss settlement talks.

The precise dollar amount requested by Waymo and the exact time the offer was made could not be learned.

Waymo’s tough stance, which has not been previously reported, reflects the company’s confidence in its legal position after months of pretrial victories in a case that 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 Waymo is not in a hurry to resolve the lawsuit, in part because of its value as a distraction for Uber leadership, said Elizabeth Rowe, a trade secret expert at the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

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

No further settlement talks are scheduled, the sources said.

The judge overseeing the case mandated that the companies enter mediation with a court-appointed magistrate.

Amy Candido, a Waymo attorney, declined to comment on any talks, but said the company’s reasons for suing Uber are “pretty clear.”

“Waymo had one goal: to stop Uber from using its trade secrets,” she said. “That remains its goal.”

An Uber spokesperson declined to comment.

Waymo sued Uber 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 Uber acquired soon after. Uber denied using any of Waymo’s trade secrets.

Waymo has estimated damages in the case at about US$1.9 billion, according to court filings, which Uber disputes.

Despite that figure and the big settlement demands, Waymo views winning a permanent injunction against Uber using any Waymo 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.

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

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