BUSINESS

Former Uber Executive Indicted, Accused Of Stealing Trade Secrets

The government alleges Anthony Levandowski stole Waymo documents in 2016 while he worked there as an engineer, then took them to Uber.

A federal grand jury in San Jose, California, has indicted Anthony Levandowski, an engineer specializing in self-driving cars, and charged him with stealing trade secrets from Google.

The 39-year-old faces 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets on allegations that he downloaded more than 14,000 files from Google’s self-driving car unit Waymo, where he worked as a top executive from 2009 until 2016.

Levandowski abruptly quit Waymo in January 2016 and formed a new self-driving car company, Otto, which Waymo rival Uber acquired for $680 million that summer.

Waymo sued Uber in 2017, after learning the company may have inappropriately acquired valuable trade secrets via Levandowski, including circuit board schematics and proprietary Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) information ― an essential technology in self-driving car development.

Levandowski, who headed Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group, maintained the technology was built “independently, from the ground up.” Uber fired Levandowski in May 2017.

The acrimonious case went to trial in 2018, only to end in a settlement with Uber agreeing, in part, “to ensure that any Waymo confidential information is not being incorporated in Uber Advanced Technologies Group hardware and software.”

“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,” a Waymo spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

An Uber spokesperson told HuffPost the company has been cooperating with the government on this latest investigation “and will continue to do so.”

Levandowski attorneys Miles Ehrlich and Ismail Ramsey vigorously disputed the new charges in a statement Tuesday, highlighting Levandowski’s role as a pioneer in self-driving technology.

“For more than a decade, Anthony Levandowski has been an industry-leading innovator in self-driving technologies,” the statement reads. “He didn’t steal anything, from anyone.”

“The downloads at issue occurred while Anthony was still working at Google — when he and his team were authorized to use the information,” the statement continues. “None of these supposedly secret files ever went to Uber or to any other company.”

“Anthony is innocent, and we look forward to proving it at trial.”

If convicted, Levandowski faces a maximum sentence of 10 years and a fine of $250,000, plus restitution, for each violation.

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