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Engineer who stole tech for Uber fined $179 million

| Mar 6, 2020 | intellectual property

Two tech giants have been embroiled in controversy for several years over the intellectual property that one claims the other stole. Now, that controversy seems to be settled with a court judgment, a series of indictments and a massive fine.

When the “star engineer” for the Waymo division of Google and its self-driving technology left the company in early 2016, he allegedly took a pile of Waymo’s intellectual property, trade secrets and ideas with him and promptly founded a company called Otto, which made self-driving trucks. Otto was then quickly bought out by Uber. That basically means that Uber (intentionally or not) got some of its innovative tech via intellectual property theft — or so the allegations go.

In 2018, Google settled outside of court with Uber. Uber agreed to give Waymo a 0.34% equity stake based on Uber’s valuation at the time of $72 billion. That would give Waymo about $245 million.

That’s not the only consequence of this particular theft. The engineer who stole the intellectual property from Google was indicted on 33 criminal charges and sued by Google. Now, a judge has clearly decided that Google’s claim was valid. The engineer was ordered to pay the tech giant $179 million.

This case is probably not over yet. The engineer maintains, through his attorney, that the case was never really about intellectual property at all. Instead, he claim that its about Google trying to keep a chokehold on its best people.

This case has been provoking a lot of interest inside and outside of tech circles. It’s a sharp reminder that you always need clear intellectual property agreements to avoid long, drawn-out disputes.