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Lyft sues former COO, claiming he shared secret files with Uber

Travis VanderZanden is said to have downloaded more than 1,400 confidential documents to his personal computer before resigning from Lyft.

Passengers can hail a Lyft ride through a smartphone app.Photo by Lyft


The newest battle tale between Uber and Lyft comes with allegations of backstabbing, spying and theft. Lyft is suing its former chief operating officer Travis VanderZanden -- who now happens to be Uber's vice president of international growth -- for alleged breach of his confidentiality agreement.

Lyft filed a complaint in San Francisco Superior Court on Wednesday alleging VanderZanden downloaded more than 1,400 files and folders to his personal Dropbox account before leaving the company. The company claims some of these documents contained extremely sensitive and confidential information, such as Lyft's roadmap for 2014, financial plans through 2016, growth data and international expansion plans.

The two ride-sharing companies have a history of waging war. There have been price-slashing skirmishes, turf battles and Uber even admitted to carrying out a secretive campaign to recruit Lyft drivers called Operation SLOG in August. But, this current chapter in the Uber vs. Lyft saga doesn't appear to be just for the sake of rivalry -- Lyft seems to have real concerns that some of its innermost trade secrets could be in jeopardy.

"We are disappointed to have to take this step, but this unusual situation has left us no choice but to take the necessary legal action to protect our confidential information," a Lyft spokeswoman told CNET. "We will not tolerate this type of behavior."

Both Lyft and Uber operate similarly in that they're smartphone app platforms that let passengers e-hail rides from a network of drivers who use their own cars as impromptu taxis. Each company has expanded at a breakneck pace over the past couple of years. Lyft is now in more than 60 US cities and Uber is in roughly 220 cities worldwide.

Lyft's troubles with VanderZanden appear to have begun months ago, according to the complaint. He initially joined Lyft when his company Cherry, an on-demand car wash service, was acquired by the ride-sharing service last year. It's been speculated that while working for Lyft, VanderZanden didn't see eye-to-eye with company founders John Zimmer and Logan Green. He ultimately resigned from Lyft in August.

The weeks surrounding VanderZanden's resignation is the time period in question, according to Lyft's complaint. Besides downloading hundreds of documents, the company alleges VanderZanden also backed up his work email to his personal computer during this time. Such actions would reportedly breach the confidentiality agreement VanderZanden had with Lyft.

"VanderZanden's possession of Lyft confidential information post-employment breached his Confidentiality Agreement," reads Lyft's complaint. "That agreement bars him from possessing, post-employment, any Lyft confidential and proprietary information, and prohibits him from using or disclosing such information to anyone."

Lyft said it was able to verify VanderZanden's actions by conducting a forensic analysis on his work laptop. The company claims there was no need for VanderZanden to backup documents to his personal computer because the company's Dropbox account would've been accessible to him at all times from any computer.

In its complaint, Lyft is demanding that VanderZanden return the confidential documents he is alleged to possess and destroy all copies he may have on his personal computer. Uber didn't return CNET's request for comment.

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