IP laundering… that’s a new one

If you’ve closely been following the lawsuit between Google’s autonomous vehicle company, Waymo, and Uber over its self-driving IP, frankly we’re impressed.

The barrage of news coming out about the case has been pretty overwhelming, and all the “he-said she-said” makes it hard to know which claims to take seriously, and which to take with a grain of fleur de sel.

But yesterday, a particularly loaded accusation came to light

Google alleged that their former self-driving car cofounder, Anthony Levandowski, was dealing with Uber while still working at Waymo, then launched his self-driving company Otto to cover his tracks.

That’s a bold claim, Google. But, to fully understand what they’re implying…

Let’s take a look at the timeline of events:

  • January 15th 2016: Levandowski incorporates Ottomotto LLC
  • January 27th 2016: Lev quits Google
  • January 28th 2016: Uber grants Lev $250m worth of shares (???)
  • July 28th 2016: Uber acquires Otto

Anything seem fishy here? (Hint: It’s the line with the question marks.)

Aside from the suspiciously fast acquisition of a 6-month-old company, Levandowski’s stock agreement with Uber states that his shares would vest just 1 day after leaving Google.

“Yeah, we meant to do that” — Uber

The company says that it backdated the vesting schedule to account for his time at Otto, a common practice in startup acquisitions.

Whether or not Lev did steal 14k confidential files from Waymo before leaving, the judge in the case pointed out that this suit isn’t against him, it’s against Uber.

And so far, there’s no proof that Uber knew of any foul play.

“Not so fast” — Google

Waymo’s also pointing to some shady email exchanges between Uber executives allegedly discussing a meeting with Lev and the formation of a new company, mysteriously titled, “NewCo.”

For example, a January email containing attachment, “NewCo_Milestones_v5,” with the message “This list of deliverables is a high bar for sure. But then again so is what [Levandowski] is asking for in $$.”

In other words, the story that Lev left Waymo to launch his own venture is an elaborate ruse, and Uber was in on it all along.

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