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Waymo now way less: Robo-ride upstart drops patents in Uber battle

Theft of trade secrets allegations will be the focus in self-driving car case

By Shaun Nichols, 7 Jul 2017

Waymo has dropped three of the patent claims it had been pursuing against Uber and will instead focus on nailing the taxi app maker for trade secret theft.

The Alphabet-owned self-driving car upstart said in a filing [PDF] in California on Friday that it would drop allegations of patent infringement with prejudice. The now-shelved claims covered a trio of Waymo's US patents regarding the design and operation of LiDAR equipment used by self-driving cars:

  • 9,086,273: Describes a "microrod compression of laser beam in combination with transmit lens."
  • 9,285,464: Describes "devices and methods for a rotating LIDAR platform with a shared transmit/receive path."
  • 8,836,922: Also describes "devices and methods for a rotating LIDAR platform."

Uber had previously said that it was no longer using the LiDAR systems associated with those patents – something Waymo would now appear to agree with.

The case will continue, with claims of trade secret theft – and one remaining patent claim – to be heard in October.

The patent infringement claims had been the lesser-followed half of Waymo's billion-dollar case against Uber and its former self-driving car research head, Anthony Levandowski.

Waymo says that Levandowski downloaded thousands of documents related to the company's LiDAR navigation system and then moved to start his own company, Ottomotto. He had already allegedly agreed to sell the biz to Uber on the understanding that he would bring the pilfered Waymo tech with him.

Uber has denied the charges and said it had no knowledge of Levandowski's alleged wrongdoing before they paid $680m to acquire his startup. Levandowski, meanwhile, has sought Fifth Amendment protection to avoid cooperating fully with Waymo, a stance that cost him his job at Uber. ®

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