Regular readers of our San Diego legal blog know that we recently shared the first half of the story of former Google employee Anthony Levandowski, who helped the company develop self-driving car technology. When he left the California tech giant, however, Levandowski was accused of taking propriety information with him and was the focus of trade secret litigation.
Rumors were swirling about the robotics engineer when he wrote a resignation email to Google’s CEO, stating “I want to be in the driver seat, not the passenger seat.” He formed a new company with a half-dozen former Google employees. But rumors were flying from the moment he left – Uber was interested in buying a $600 million stake Levandowski’s new venture.
After he left Google, forensic engineers discovered that before his departure, Levandowski had downloaded 14,000 files that included schematics. Google considered it evidence that he had taken with him proprietary information with which to start his firm.
Early last year, the company filed a lawsuit against Uber, “alleging that Levandowski had absconded with information of nearly incalculable worth,” the New Yorker reports. They asked for $1.85 billion in damages for the theft of trade secrets.
Uber fired Levandowski. But as the trial unfolded, it became apparent that Google was not going to prevail, so its attorneys negotiated a settlement for about one sixth of the damages it had originally sought.
Certainly the results of the ordeal were mixed for both companies. The same holds true for Levandowski, who has been unemployed since his firing – but remains very rich.