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Google Crime The Courts

Alphabet's Waymo Asks Judge To Block Uber From Using Self-Driving Car Secrets (theverge.com) 82

Waymo, Alphabet's self-driving spinoff from Google, is formally asking a judge to block Uber from operating its autonomous vehicles, according to new documents filed in Waymo's lawsuit against Uber. From a report on The Verge: The lawsuit, which was filed last month, alleges that Uber stole key elements of its self-driving car technology from Google. Uber has called the accusations "baseless." Today in federal court, Waymo filed the sworn testimony of Gary Brown, a forensic security engineer with Google since 2013. Citing logs from Google's secure network, Brown claims that Anthony Levandowski, a former Google engineer who now runs Uber's self-driving car program, downloaded 14,000 files from a Google repository that contain design files, schematics, and other confidential information pertaining to its self-driving car project. Levandowski used his personal laptop to download the files, a fact that Brown says made it easy to track.
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Alphabet's Waymo Asks Judge To Block Uber From Using Self-Driving Car Secrets

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  • As Uber continues to brush its teeth, Google scrambles to put the toothpaste back in the tube. I'm not sure a judge can order Uber to selectively forget the stolen designs. Is the idea a permanent block on Uber running self-driving cars? TFA's unclear.

    • by TWX ( 665546 )

      The judge's ruling might well put the onus on Uber to prove that it's not using stolen data, which could mean going literally back to the drawing board with an entirely new set of staff that have never worked with the data taken from Google.

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      As Uber continues to brush its teeth, Google scrambles to put the toothpaste back in the tube. I'm not sure a judge can order Uber to selectively forget the stolen designs. Is the idea a permanent block on Uber running self-driving cars? TFA's unclear.

      Actually courts can do quite a lot.

      They can prohibit Uber from using self driving technology all together.

      • by gnick ( 1211984 )

        They can prohibit Uber from using self driving technology all together.

        That's what TFA makes it sound like: "Waymo... is formally asking a judge to block Uber from operating its autonomous vehicles..." No mention of a time frame or conditions to meet to get back on the road. If this is a permanent thing, this could spell doom for Uber's long-term success. Eventually, using human drivers just won't allow them to be competitive. Then again, how "long-term" do we expect Uber to be a thing?

        • this could spell doom for Uber's long-term success

          This adds one more item to a long lists of things that could spell doom for Uber's success.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by johanw ( 1001493 )

            Not really, if Uber is forbidden to waste its monmey on some technology that won't work for the next few centuries and even if it does work is way more expensive than the existing technology (human driver) it gets a competitive advantage over the other companies driven by mass hysteria.

        • Very likely it is an injunction to stop them using the technology until the court case is settled. That is pretty standard in many intellectual property lawsuits. Such as: https://www.wsj.com/articles/S... [wsj.com]

          This is a way of saying "you stole our ideas, so stop using them and continuing to rack up damages".

      • They can prohibit Uber from using self driving technology all together.

        Just because it is prohibited, doesn't really mean that Über won't do it anyway.

        In addition, Über is a new age economy company run by a smartphone app. Old "Brick and Mortar" concepts and laws like "stealing" don't apply to Über.

        If you really want to stop Über from using self driving technology, the only way to do that for certain is to put a bullet through the engine, fired from a high-powered, large caliber pistol: (.600 Nitro Express, Ruger .480, .450 Marlin BFR, .460 Magnum XVR, e

    • My guess: when Uber submits documentation for road safety, patents, copyrights, etc - that information could be submitted to a third-party arbiter to verify that the technology used is unique and not infringing upon Google's patents.
      • My guess: when Uber submits documentation for road safety, patents, copyrights, etc - that information could be submitted to a third-party arbiter to verify that the technology used is unique and not infringing upon Google's patents.

        I think this is not about patents, but about trade secrets. Patents are openly published and give the patent holder a time-limited monopoly on the invention. Trade secrets are kept secret. Others are allowed to invent and then use the exact same thing, but they are not allowed to steal the secret and then use it.

        • by mysidia ( 191772 )

          I think this is not about patents, but about trade secrets.

          So it seems like Google is a non-practicing entity, since they don't seem to be doing any trade or commerce, or selling anything based on their work; it's all research about hypothetical future concepts.... then can their work actually be considered a trade secret?

          Seems like Google's the troll here. They talk a good game, but there's seems to be no Self-Driving car or Self-driving-car-based product Google's selling.

    • Here's the law [wikipedia.org]. They can stop Uber from using the Google technology (mainly the LIDAR afaict) until it becomes common knowledge (and then they have to wait a little longer to make up for the head-start they got by stealing the secret). They can use civil seizure [americanbar.org] to ensure Uber doesn't secretly continue using the technology. They can make Uber pay damages (profits lost by Google + profits gained by Uber).

      There is also the issue of patent 8,836,922, which Google claims is being violated. It is also related [google.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward

    A patent. Trade secrets can bite you in the ass, and this is why.

    • by TWX ( 665546 )

      I was under the impression that anything created is automatically copyrighted.

      • by HiThere ( 15173 )

        A point, but copyrights don't protect implementations. They don't even protect you against significant rephrasing...or at least they didn't used to. Making an implementation isn't the same thing as publishing.

        To me it seems the most applicable law is the one against unauthorized computer access, but that might not affect Uber, but only their employee, as it might not be possible to prove that he was acting as their agent in his actions. Of course, then you might go after Uber for receiving stolen merchan

        • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Friday March 10, 2017 @04:21PM (#54015207)

          Copyrights do protect printed circuit board patterns and the operating code that runs on the computers built on those circuit boards.

          It sounds like Uber has implemented PCBs and code that is directly taken from Google. Not even a two-team approach like Compaq did when they reverse-engineered the IBM PC BIOS, but actually taking Google's layouts and fabricating them and running Google's code on them.

          • If Google insists that Uber do a clean-room approach, the irony will be thick considering how they copied Java into Android.
            • by TWX ( 665546 )

              Really? I was under the impression that Google's Java license came from Sun and allowed them to do quite a lot more than a normal Java license would, and Oracle didn't like the terms and tried to alter the deal when they took over Sun.

              • No, Google and Sun were negotiating for a while, but they never came to an agreement. Sun said internally, "oh well, we like Android, so we'll let it slide."

                Oracle bought Sun and said, "Whether we like Android or not has nothing to do with it, we want to sue." Google never got a license, and that's why they're in a lawsuit still today.
              • I am altering the deal. Pray I do not alter it any further.

    • They have three: patents no: 8,836,922; 9,368,936 and 9,086,273. and they are mentioned in the lawsuit.
  • by foxalopex ( 522681 ) on Friday March 10, 2017 @03:33PM (#54014903)

    From what I've been able to piece together online, it looks like Uber might be in serious trouble. Google apparently really started to suspect something was wrong when one of the LiDAR component providers noticed both companies were sourcing the same parts with Uber apparently using virtually identical circuit board layouts. The timing looks bad as well with the the small startup company being immediately bought up by Uber and sudden development of Self-Driving technology. Plus you're talking about a company who knowingly tested their Self-Driving cars on the street without bothering to purchase a licence to do so. Even if Uber gets off scott free there's this entire question of Patents too which Google probably entirely holds...

    • by TWX ( 665546 )

      PCBs would be copyright rather than patent.

      I'm curious as to penalties based on availability of sample hardware itself or lack thereof. It's one thing to buy one's competitor's product in a retail setting, take it apart, and copy it. Still can be illegal, but it's not the same as taking a design that one should have had no access-to to begin with and producing it because the design was outright stolen from corporate records rather than simply bought on the free market.

      I suppose the nature and timeline of

      • by Anonymous Coward

        PCBs would be copyright rather than patent.

        As you are correcting the GP, I feel obligated to correct you, too.

        PCBs would be protected by Mask Works [wikipedia.org]. That is different than Copyright, much like Copyright is different than Patent.

    • Google uses off the shelf Lidar. Anybody that bought one, would get the same circuit board layouts. Google could buy their Lidar supplier, then they might own patents, but lidar is kind of old tech given patents length.

      • FWIW, the lawsuit claims that they use a custom [theverge.com] Lidar:

        Today, most firms in the self-driving space purchase LiDAR systems from third-party providers. Waymo, on the other hand, uses its own LiDAR systems that are carefully tailored – based on Waymo’s extensive research and testing – for use in fully autonomous vehicle

  • There can be legitimate reasons for downloading files. One might want to be certain that patents are not about to be violated and make certain that different approaches to various items are taken. I saw this occur with an expensive electronic device. The patent holder did not understand the limit of the scope of his patent and sued. He ended up apologizing and paying both sides legal fees. One needs proof in hand before making a complaint or it can get quite expensive.

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