Examining Copyright: Waymo v. Uber

The Case

The plaintiff, Waymo, accused a former Google engineer of stealing trade secrets. These trade secrets allegedly involved autonomous vehicle technology that the engineer used to start a self-driving truck company that was acquired by the defendant, Uber (Larson). Waymo and Uber ultimately reached a settlement in which Waymo received Uber equity. This case demonstrates the complex and cut-throat ways of tech companies competing for the same space.

After doing some research, Uber appears to be in the wrong in this instance, given that it seems clear the engineer was working with Uber before he quit his job at Google, and he apparently downloaded thousands of files off of his computer before leaving. This demonstrates greed and dishonesty– two companies that used to get along got caught up in a race to get to the autonomous vehicle market first, and Uber, afraid of losing, got desperate. They turned to unsavory practices instead of looking for alternative solutions.  Giving Waymo 0.34% of their stock might be a $235 million settlement, but it still seems fairly small given the gravity of their actions, especially since one analyst testified that Uber has a “market analytics” department dedicated solely to acquiring trade secrets and other information they shouldn’t have.

On the other hand, Waymo doesn’t seem totally innocent.  Waymo was allegedly working under the table with Lyft, so they were clearly trying to pull ahead of competition through dishonest means as well.

Since a settlement was reached out of court, the case doesn’t seem to have much bearing on US policy, but it does demonstrate that dishonesty is not an unfamiliar practice in the tech world. I don’t think that Waymo should have settled out of court, because an example needs to be made to discourage companies from engaging in such dishonest practices.

Works Cited

Farivar, Cyrus, and Utc. “It’s All over: Why the Waymo v. Uber Self-Driving Settlement Makes Sense.” Ars Technica,
     Ars Technica, 10 Feb. 2018, arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2018/02/its-all-over-why-the-waymo-v-uber-self-
Larson, Selena. “What We Learned in the Waymo v. Uber Case.” CNNMoney, Cable News Network,
“Waymo V. Uber: Everything to Know About the Trade Secrets Trial.” Fortune, Fortune,