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Waymo LLC v. Uber Technologies, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California

June 8, 2017

WAYMO LLC, Plaintiff,
UBER TECHNOLOGIES, INC., et al, Defendants.




         In this action asserting claims for trade secret misappropriation, patent infringement, and unfair competition, defendants move to dismiss the latter as superseded by California's Uniform Trade Secrets Act. The motion is Granted.


         The centerpiece of this action is plaintiff Waymo LLC's claims against defendants Uber Technologies, Inc., Ottomotto LLC, and Otto Trucking LLC for misappropriation of trade secrets under the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act and the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act. Additionally, Waymo has asserted four claims for patent infringement and one claim for violation of Section 17200 of California's Business and Professions Code against all defendants. The following is taken from the well-pled allegations of the amended complaint (Dkt. No. 23).

         Self-driving cars represent a nascent and potentially trillion-dollar industry (id. ¶ 1). To compete in that industry, Waymo has invested heavily in building custom, in-house Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology that helps its self-driving cars "see" their surroundings (id. ¶¶ 2, 31). Waymo has patented some of its advances in LiDAR technology. It has also accumulated "a vast amount of confidential and proprietary intellectual property, " including "details actually used in Waymo's LiDAR designs as well as the lessons learned from Waymo's years of research and development, " which "constitute trade secrets" (id. ¶ 36).

         In late 2015, Anthony Levandowski, while employed by Waymo, used his company credentials and resources to download "9.7 GBs of sensitive, secret, and valuable internal Waymo information, " including "confidential information regarding Waymo's LiDAR systems and other technology" (id. ¶¶ 41-48). Shortly thereafter, in early 2016, Levandowski left Waymo to start competing self-driving car ventures Ottomotto and Otto Trucking (collectively, "Otto") (id. ¶¶ 48-50). In August 2016, Uber acquired Otto for approximately $680 million dollars and put Levandowski in charge of its self-driving car project (id. ¶¶ 55-56).

         The foregoing events "caused Waymo grave concern regarding the possible misuse of its intellectual property." Accordingly, in summer of 2016, Waymo investigated the circumstances of Levandowski's departure and discovered his downloading of Waymo's "confidential materials" (id. ¶ 57). "Then, in December 2016, Waymo received evidence suggesting that Otto and Uber were actually using Waymo's trade secrets and patented LiDAR designs" when it received an email between employees of a LiDAR-component vendor apparently working on designs for defendants. The email appended a machine drawing of a circuit board "reflect[ing] Waymo's highly confidential proprietary LiDAR technology and Waymo trade secrets [and] specifically designed to be used in conjunction with many other Waymo trade secrets and in the context of overall LiDAR systems covered by Waymo patents" (id. ¶¶ 58-59).

         With "greatly heightened suspicion" that defendants were using its "intellectual property, " Waymo made a public records request to obtain Otto's submissions to Nevada regulatory authorities in connection with Otto's self-driving car project. The results from that request confirmed to Waymo that defendants "[were] in fact using a custom LiDAR system with the same characteristics as Waymo's proprietary system" (id. ¶¶ 60-61). Waymo filed this lawsuit on February 23 and amended its complaint on March 10.

         As to its injuries, Waymo further alleges that it "developed its patented inventions and trade secrets at great expense, and through years of painstaking research, experimentation, and trial and error. If Defendants are not enjoined from their infringement and misappropriation, they will cause severe and irreparable harm to Waymo." Furthermore, "[w]ith respect to Waymo's trade secrets, there is also the threat that Waymo's confidential and proprietary information will be disclosed by Defendants, which will destroy the trade secret value of the technology" (id. ¶¶ 62-64).

         The amended complaint sets forth the foregoing allegations in a comprehensive section titled "Factual Allegations" before enumerating Waymo's claims for relief, each of which fully incorporates said allegations. Waymo's DTSA and CUTS A claims both state, "Waymo owns and possesses certain confidential, proprietary, and trade secret information, as alleged above, " and describe examples of the alleged trade secrets, including examples specifically distinguishing Waymo's asserted trade secret rights from its asserted patent rights (id. ¶¶ 67-68, 80-81). Both also describe security measures taken by Waymo to keep its information secret and confidential (id. ¶¶ 70-74, 82). Waymo's CUTS A claim further adds, "Waymo's technical information, designs, and other 'know how' related to its LiDAR system constitute trade secrets as defined by [CUTSA]" (id. ¶ 80).

         Defendants now move to dismiss Waymo's Section 17200 claim on the basis that it is superseded by CUTSA (Dkt. No. 312). Additional allegations from the amended complaint germane to the instant motion are discussed below in the context of the parties' arguments. This order follows full briefing and oral argument.


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