Indictment Following Contentious Civil Lawsuit Highlights the Dangers of Trade Secret Litigation

Sep 5, 2019

A federal grand jury recently indicted Google’s former wunderkind, Anthony Levandowski, on 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1832. The charges relate to self-driving car technology developed by Waymo, Google’s sister company.

In January 2016, Mr. Levandowski resigned from Google. Shortly thereafter, Uber hired him to work on their autonomous car technology. The indictment states that before leaving Waymo, Mr. Levandowski downloaded more than 14,000 documents related to Google’s self-driving car technology. In a written statement, Mr. Levandowski’s attorneys state, “This case rehashes claims already discredited in a civil case that settled more than a year and a half ago. The downloads at issue occurred while Anthony was still working at Google—when he and his team were authorized to use the information. None of these supposedly secret files ever went to Uber or to any other company.”

These alleged 14,000 documents were disclosed in March 2017 when Waymo filed a temporary injunction to stop Uber from moving forward with their own autonomous vehicle technology. When Uber was ordered to disclose the files allegedly downloaded by Mr. Levandowski, he “broadly asserted his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination.”  In May 2017, the matter was referred to the U.S. Attorney.