Alphabet’s Waymo files patent and trade secret lawsuit against Uber

By Steve Brachmann
March 19, 2017

“Waymo Self-Driving Car on the Road in Mountain View” by Grendelkhan. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

On Friday, March 10th, Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOGL) autonomous vehicle development firm Waymo took additional actions in a patent infringement and trade secret violation suit targeting ride hailing service Uber. The amended complaint filed by Waymo reportedly includes an additional patent claim and the company also filed a motion for preliminary injunction to prevent Uber from practicing an object detection technology in its autonomous vehicle development. Waymo’s lawsuit is filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (N.D. Cal.).

The amended complaint filed by Waymo against Uber asserts claims from four patents held by Waymo. The patents-in-suit include:

  • U.S. Patent No. 8836922, titled Devices and Methods for a Rotating LIDAR Platform with a Shared Transmit/Receive Path. It claims a light detection and ranging (LIDAR) device with a lens mounted to a rotatable housing and configured to receive light focused along a transmit path.
  • U.S. Patent No. 9285464, same title as ‘922 patent. It claims a similar LIDAR device where light is focused onto detectors to measure distances for creating a three-dimensional map of a scanning zone.
  • U.S. Patent No. 9368936, titled Laser Diode Firing System. It claims an apparatus with a voltage source, an inductor, a diode, a transistor, a light emitting element and a capacitor that increases a voltage level and causes the light emitting element to emit a pulse of light.
  • U.S. Patent No. 9086273, titled Microrod Compression of Laser Beam in Combination with Transmit Lens. It claims a LIDAR device with a laser diode that emits an uncollimated laser beam which reduces the complexity and cost of using such devices with an autonomous vehicle.

Waymo’s allegations stem from an email containing diagrams of a LIDAR board marketed by Uber which was inadvertently sent to Waymo. Similarities between this circuit board and Waymo’s own LIDAR devices led the company to allege that Anthony Levandowski, a former Waymo manager who left the company to found the self-driving freight transport company Otto, downloaded more than 14,000 confidential files from Waymo’s design server, before resigning from Waymo. Levandowski publicly launched Otto last May and the company was acquired by Uber in August for a reported $680 million.

Waymo’s suit includes counts of infringement for each of the four patents asserted in the case. The suit also includes counts for violations of the Defend Trade Secrets Act and state claims for violations of the California Uniform Trade Secret Act. Waymo is seeking preliminary and permanent injunctions, damages for patent infringement including trebled damages for infringement of the ‘922, ‘464 and ‘273 patents and punitive damages among other forms of relief.

The Author

Steve Brachmann

Steve Brachmann is a writer located in Buffalo, New York. He has worked professionally as a freelancer for more than a decade. He has become a regular contributor to IPWatchdog.com, writing about technology, innovation and is the primary author of the Companies We Follow series. His work has been published by The Buffalo News, The Hamburg Sun, USAToday.com, Chron.com, Motley Fool and OpenLettersMonthly.com. Steve also provides website copy and documents for various business clients.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com. Read more.

Discuss this

There are currently 14 Comments comments.

  1. Jack Smith March 20, 2017 4:32 am

    Some act like this is competition. If what has been shared is true this was a criminal act.

  2. angry dude March 20, 2017 7:47 am

    Is Waymo giving rides to people across USA ?
    Guess not, but Uber does
    Waymo should be called greedy patent trolls and sanctioned by the court
    …at least that’s the logic applied to the rest of us, small patent holders

  3. Eric Berend March 20, 2017 11:27 am

    Hmmm…exactly the conduct perpetrated against so many SV startups, that later sued Google, Inc./etc. on the same grounds and the same legal theories, alleging the same fact patterns.

    If that were you or me, don’t you think we would be handled with similar judicial disdain, as other patent property holders?

    Well, if the purple robed fiats rule as would be expected, the outcome will be yet another demonstration that U.S. patent protections are only for Google and its similar gold-plated SVP. Any other actual real life inventors, need not apply.

  4. Eric Berend March 20, 2017 11:29 am

    @ 1, ‘Jack Smith’:

    Where is your commentary against Google. Inc. for the very same “criminal” corporate conduct, dozens of times? During the lifetime of this blog, there certainly has been no lack of instances. Where were you?

    Or, is it only Google, Inc./Alphabet, that you defend?

  5. jbavis March 20, 2017 11:40 pm

    After expending significant resources for hundreds of projects over 15+ years, I find it ironic that Google may have finally have found their project to diversify from their heavy reliance on search but may easily lose it all because of their own intense lobbying with Obama to weaken patents! Seriously, if this isn’t irony then what is?

  6. Tiburon March 21, 2017 10:05 am

    jbavis –

    You are seriously underestimating Google and the resources they can bring to bear. Google is sitting on $86Billion cash ($82Billion if you strip out their easily manageable debt). And that cash pile is growing by $49m PER DAY. By the end of this week they’ll have made enough to fund patent lobbying until the end of Trump’s term. That’s more cash than all of pharma combined.

    So you can dream all you like that Google will “lose” their patents but the reality is Google has the resources to keep their patents. And there’s not a damn thing you can do about that.

    You see, Google is a company built on Computer Science. This is what computer science can do. The old saying now goes: Computer Science fought the law and Computer Science won.

    You or your patent lawyer friends cannot even begin to dent Google. It’s game over pal.

  7. Anon March 21, 2017 12:26 pm

    Tiburon,

    You seem to act like that is a good thing.

  8. angry dude March 21, 2017 1:05 pm

    Tiburon @6

    Sure google has lots of cash so they can throw it around on useless projects like google glasses
    But sometimes all your cash does not help
    me thinks google is out of favor with current administration and hopefully with the upcoming scotus majority and if they try to aggressively push their lobbing $$$ on wash dc it just might just do a bad service to them
    on the other hand patent law is not a mainstream topic so general lemming population does not care at all if google kills innovation or innovation kills google
    – as long as they can have their cheap china-made tech gadgets

  9. Tiburon March 21, 2017 1:15 pm

    angry dude –

    You’re thinking small. We’re not talking Google Glass – we’re talking driverless cars and applying that efficiency improvement to cars. Cars are far bigger than Glass could ever be. Imagine Uber without the drivers. Google could barge into the market relatively quickly with an app built into Android. Sure they would need to build the cars – but not the drivers. The cars could run virtually 24/7. This is shaping up to be as big if not bigger than smartphone patent wars.

    Eric Schmidt is moving to lobbying Republicans. Money controls the world, and Google has it, and you can’t do anything about it.

  10. angry dude March 21, 2017 1:50 pm

    I am thinking small ???

    augmented/virtual reality is already a lot bigger than driverless cars – who needs those anyway in the area where I live ?
    my redneck neighbors have plenty of time on their hands to drive their trucks themselves

    btw putin has much more money than google

    Do you honestly think that he can influence next US presidential election ?(assuming he stays alive and in power for that long )
    Eric Shmidt might as well waste google money on lobbying the way they did with google glasses
    The bigger pile of cash doesn’t always win – otherwise we would have Hillary in the WH

  11. Tiburon March 21, 2017 1:56 pm

    politics and patents are apples and oranges – completely different things.

    In patents today, more money means improved chances to winning. Note I included the word ‘today’.

    VR bigger than cars? Don’t know how you figure, but I’m sure the market capitalization of automobile manufacturers and supply chain dward Occulus et al.

  12. angry dude March 21, 2017 2:07 pm

    Don’t conflate cars with driverless cars please
    in my neighborhood those are useless for next 15 years (and that is like 90% of the country)
    patents are all about politics nowadays – choosing winners and losers in economic game

  13. Tiburon March 21, 2017 2:46 pm

    angry dude –

    Google says you are wrong. They virtually abandoned their VR (Glass) but significantly ramping(ed) resources on driverless. They are better situated than anyone to overtake Uber – and thanks to their resources and patents they will and not even $30B Uber can stop them.

  14. angry dude March 21, 2017 4:26 pm

    Tiburon @13

    On which planet do you live ?

    how about daydream VR from google ?

    and btw google patents are junk for the most part and they know it

    they had an opportunity to buy good ones during their palooza but the max they paid was 250K or something like that – a laughable figure even for me