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Uber reaches settlement with Waymo in dispute over trade secrets

Russ Mitchell and Tracey Lien, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

SAN FRANCISCO -- Uber and Waymo, the driverless car arm of Google's parent company, Alphabet, have settled their lawsuit over allegations that Uber stole driverless car trade secrets.

In a statement posted on its website Friday morning, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi struck a conciliatory tone, expressing regret over the company's actions.

"To our friends at Alphabet: we are partners, you are an important investor in Uber, and we share a deep belief in the power of technology to change people's lives for the better," he wrote. "Of course, we are also competitors. And while we won't agree on everything going forward, we agree that Uber's acquisition of Otto could and should have been handled differently."

Under the settlement, Uber will pay Google $245 million in Uber equity and agree not to use the company's trade secrets.

The settlement came in the first week of the trial. Waymo had sued Uber, alleging that the ride-hailing start-up possessed stolen trade secrets covering driverless car technology.

Over four days in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, a string of witnesses cast Uber in a bad light, including damaging testimony from former Uber board member and venture capitalist Bill Gurley, who admitted he did not read key due diligence documents before voting to pay alleged trade secret thieves $592 million.

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The money bought a driverless truck company named Otto, run by former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski.

Khosrowshahi was named CEO in August in large part to boost Uber's image. Sexual harassment, loose protection of customer data, spying on journalists, and encouragement of an over-aggressive bro culture were just a few of the controversies that led the Uber board to force out co-founder Travis Kalanick as CEO in June.

A former Expedia CEO, Khosrowshahi pledged to improve Uber's image and culture as he prepares for a public stock offering as early as 2019.

Continuing witness testimony and resulting bad press "would have hurt their valuation," said Rebecca Lindland, analyst at Kelley Blue Book. It's "incredibly important that Uber clear their decks, get themselves back on solid footing and get this distraction out of the way," she said.

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