It seems self-driving cars are on their way to New Jersey and the rest of the nation. However, there's a lot of debate and conflict regarding which companies will lead the way. While tech giant Google has spun off its own self-driving vehicle company, called Waymo, the ride sharing service Uber has thrown itself into the fray as well. However, Waymo is claiming that Uber's technology was not developed or acquired legally. It has filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming trade secret violations.
Specifically, Waymo alleges that a former employee of Google took more than 14,000 files that were confidential when he left Google. Among those files were a number of documents relating to self-driving technologies that Google was developing. The former Google employee then launched Otto, a self-driving trucking company, which Uber paid $680 million for in 2016. A spokesperson for Waymo said Uber is using stolen trade secrets to make its self-driving vehicles go.
A spokesperson for Uber said there is no evidence that the documents allegedly stolen have come into Uber's possession, let alone that Uber has made use of them. A judge ruled that Uber cannot move the case to arbitration and maintained the scheduled trial date in October 2017. Both companies have signed contracts with the former Google employee, but there is no agreement between Uber and Waymo.
The former employee of Google has asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Intellectual property can be among the most valuable assets held by a business. Businesses owners who have questions about their rights to protection under trademark, patent, copyright or trade secret law may want to consult an attorney. A lawyer with experience in intellectual property litigation may be able to help by examining the facts of the situation for available causes of action or by identifying potential defendants.