Ex-Google engineer sentenced to 18 months in jail for trade secret theft

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Anthony Levandowski pleaded guilty to one count of trade secret theft.


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Former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski was sentenced on Tuesday to 18 months in jail by a federal judge after pleading guilty to one count of trade secret theft from the search giant, the United States Justice Department stated. After he left Google, Levandowski brought taken files associated to self-driving automobile innovation to Uber as he constructed out the competitor’s self-governing driving system. 

The theft stimulated a prominent and bitter suit 2 years ago in between Google’s self-driving automobile arm, which was relabelled Waymo, and Uber. The charges were concentrated on Levandowski’s deal with Otto, a self-driving trucking business that the engineer established which Uber gotten in 2016. Google declared that Levandowski downloaded 14,000 “highly confidential” submits explaining self-driving innovation research study and brought them to Otto.

“This is the biggest trade secret crime I have ever seen,” United States District Judge William Alsup, who bied far the sentencing, stated Tuesday. “This was not small. This was massive in scale.”

Levandowski will have the ability to start his prison time after the COVID-19 pandemic has actually passed, the Justice Department stated. Alsup likewise bought him to pay more than $756,000 in restitution to Waymo, along with a $95,000 fine.

The sentencing is the conclusion of the long-running legal drama in between Waymo and Uber. The case, which went to trial in San Francisco 2 years back, offered an unusual glance into the high-stakes environment of huge tech business, which usually attempt to protect their inner functions from public view. But only days into the trial, which was anticipated to last a minimum of 3 weeks, the 2 business suddenly settled, offering Waymo 0.34 percent of Uber’s equity.

Levandowski’s lawyer, along with Uber, didn’t right away react to ask for remark. 

Waymo called the jail sentence a “win” for innovation trade secret laws. “Anthony Levandowski’s theft of autonomous technology trade secrets has been enormously disruptive and harmful to Waymo, constituted a betrayal, and the effects would likely have been even more severe had it gone undetected,” a spokesperson stated.

In March, Levandowski was bought to pay a $179 million fine to Google for the theft. Hours after the award was approved to Google, the engineer applied for Chapter 11 insolvency.

Last year, he was charged by the Justice Department with 33 counts of theft and tried theft of trade tricks from Google. The indictment declared that Levandowski took tricks associated with lidar (for “light detection and ranging”) innovation. 

The tech enables self-driving cars and trucks to “see” their environments and discover traffic, pedestrians, bicyclists and other challenges. The submits downloaded by Levandowski presumably consisted of circuit board schematics, guidelines for setting up and checking lidar and an internal tracking file, the Justice Department stated.

Even after the settlement in between Waymo and Uber in 2015, Levandowski continued to establish self-driving innovation with a brand-new start-up called Pronto.ai. After the indictment, Pronto stated Levandowski would no longer act as CEO of the start-up. 

CNET’s Dara Kerr added to this report.

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