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Uber says Waymo seeks $2.6B in damages, Waymo disagrees

Alphabet's self-driving car unit says it's owed billions for the alleged theft of its autonomous vehicle trade secrets.

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Waymo claims Uber is allegedly using stolen trade secrets for its self-driving cars.

Waymo

Waymo isn't after chump change in its lawsuit against Uber.

Uber said last week the self-driving car unit of Google's parent company Alphabet was seeking $2.6 billion in damages for alleged trade secret theft, according to Reuters. This figure was made public last Wednesday during a hearing for the case in federal court in San Francisco. The $2.6 billion figure was reportedly for only one trade secret; there are eight others going to trial.

Waymo is going after large sums in this case, but in a court filing late last Friday the company said it's seeking $1.859 billion in damages for the one trade secret -- not $2.6 billion. And Waymo said the numbers aren't "additive," meaning if a jury rules that Uber stole all nine trade secrets, Waymo will still seek just $1.859 billion.

"Two days ago, Uber's lead counsel told the court that Waymo is asking for $2.6 billion in damages for one trade secret," Waymo wrote in Friday's filing. "That is false. Waymo is asking for $1.859 billion for Trade Secret 25 (not $2.6 billion) and less for the remaining trade secrets."

Uber didn't respond to request for comment on this latest disagreement.

Waymo has accused Uber of stealing secretive self-driving car technology. The case centers around former Google employee Anthony Levandowski, who allegedly stole 14,000 "highly confidential" files before leaving the company to start his own self-driving truck startup. Uber bought that startup several months later for $680 million and placed Levandowski as the head of its autonomous vehicle program.

Levandowski has since been fired by Uber. But Waymo claims that doesn't dismiss the possibility that the ride-hailing company still used the secrets in the pilfered files for its own self-driving car tech.

Nearly $2 billion in damages is a hefty amount for a lawsuit. Some of the biggest payouts in US history for a single plaintiff aren't too far off. A Bank of America settlement over toxic mortgage loans in 2014 was $16 billion. RJ Reynolds Tobacco was ordered to pay $23.6 billion to a lung cancer victim in a lawsuit in 2014. (An appellate court later reversed that judgment and ordered a new trial.) 

The hearing for the Waymo v. Uber lawsuit on Wednesday was to discuss whether the trial for the case, currently slated to begin on Oct. 10, will be delayed. Waymo is pushing to postpone the trial so it can have more time to comb through recently obtained evidence related to the case. Uber has said it wants the trial to proceed on the scheduled date.

Uber declined to comment on Wednesday's hearing.

First published Sept. 20, 12:08 p.m. PT.
Update, Sept. 20, 12:53 p.m.: Adds Uber declining to comment.

Update, Sept. 25 at 2:50 p.m.: Adds information about Waymo's court filing.

Correction, Oct. 2 at 10:04 a.m. : A judgment against RJ Reynolds was never paid. The judgment was later reversed and a new trial was ordered.

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