Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has reportedly lodged a lawsuit against leading taxi hailing app Uber for what it claims is theft of its trade secrets. That lawsuit, however, could hurt its venture arm, which invested in Uber.
According to a report in Fortune, Alphabet contends one of Google’s high-level engineers in the self-driving car unit left the company with thousands of confidential files that helped him start Otto, the self-driving truck company, which was sold to Uber. Uber, noted the report, has denied the allegations. The lawsuit was filed by Waymo, the self-driving car unit of Alphabet.
“We have reviewed Waymo’s claims and determined them to be a baseless attempt to slow down a competitor, and we look forward to vigorously defending against them in court,” Uber said in a statement to Fortune. “In the meantime, we will continue our hard work to bring self-driving benefits to the world.”
The lawsuit creates a sticky situation for Google Ventures, which has invested in Uber. If Waymo wins and gets damages from Uber, the investment Google Ventures made in Uber could be worth less.
Last week, Waymo filed the lawsuit accusing Anthony Levandowski, the Otto co-founder, of downloading 14,000 highly confidential files to an external hard drive before leaving the company, some of which included the design for Waymo’s LiDAR circuit board.
A report in Re/Code noted that Waymo opted to do a forensic inquiry of Levandowski’s computer after a Waymo employee accidentally copied on an email from a LiDAR supplier that had the subject “Otto Files.” Re/Code reported the email was sent to people Waymo thinks are working with Uber, and it included an attachment of drawings of Otto’s LiDAR circuit board. Waymo is seeking damages from both Otto and Uber for what it contends is stolen trade secrets, unfair competition and infringement on patents.