Uber admitted today that it had found one of the documents Waymo alleges was stolen by a former employee — who left its self-driving car effort to join Uber’s — on the employee’s personal computer.
The document was found on a personal device belonging to Sameer Kshirsagar, Uber’s attorney Arturo Gonzalez said at a court hearing today. It’s the first time that Uber has acknowledged that any of Waymo’s documents are in the possession of any Uber employees. However, Uber emphasized that the document was not found on Uber’s computers. “We did collect documents from him and thus far we have only found one document from his computers that matches the documents identified in the complaint,” Gonzalez said.
Waymo claims that Kshirsagar downloaded several confidential documents in June 2016, one month before resigning and joining Anthony Levandowski at Uber. The names of the five specific documents are partially redacted in court filings, but one references “laser questions” and another “lens placement.”
Levandowski is one of three Uber employees accused of taking Waymo trade secrets, and Waymo says he took 14,000 documents, while Kshirsagar and Radu Raduta took only a few. Waymo is now asking for Uber to turn over those stolen documents as part of the discovery process in its trade secret lawsuit against its competitor, while Uber argues that it cannot hand over anything from Levandowski without violating his Fifth Amendment rights and that it has already thoroughly searched for the documents at Uber.
Uber said it has interviewed 85 current and former employees, 42 of whom worked in the automotive division. Uber searched 10 of the employees’ computers and looked through the company’s git repository for files that matched Waymo’s descriptions. The company found 31,000 hits but described them as “not substantive.”
“I believe that we will demonstrate to you that those 14,000 files never made it to Uber,” Gonzalez said.
Waymo claimed in a letter to the court that Uber did not meet the deadline to hand over documents and refused to provide all of the documents Waymo had requested, particularly the 14,000 confidential Waymo documents Levandowski allegedly downloaded before he left the company to lead Uber’s self-driving car unit.
“To the extent Uber tries to excuse its noncompliance on the grounds that Mr. Levandowski has invoked the Fifth Amendment and refused to provide Uber with documents or assistance, Waymo notes that Mr. Levandowski remains — to this day — an Uber executive and in charge of its self-driving car program. Uber has ratified Mr. Levandowski’s behavior and is liable for it,” Waymo attorney Charles K. Verhoeven wrote in a letter to the court (emphasis his).
Judge William Alsup, who is presiding over the case, ordered Uber to search more thoroughly for the documents. He told Uber to search using 15 terms provided by Waymo, first on the employees’ computers that had already been searched, then on 10 employees’ computers selected by Waymo, and then on all other servers and devices connected to employees who work on Uber’s LiDAR system.