The Silicon Valley has become synonymous with advanced technology. This is now one of California’s most competitive fields. As such, there seem to be numerous opportunities for tech companies to discover incidents of infringement or trade secret theft.
Recently, Waymo, on behalf of Alphabet Inc., filed a lawsuit against Uber Technologies, Inc., claiming the ride sharing company is using trade secrets for self-driving technology. The lawsuit claims that former employees, now working as engineers for Uber, are using knowledge they gained at Alphabet to develop the technology for Uber. There is reportedly a race among tech companies to develop viable self-driving vehicles for the public, and competition is brutal. Waymo is seeking almost $2 billion in damages and an order to block Uber from developing the specified technology.
Some say that such litigation is hampering engineers’ freedom to choose which employers to work for, as well as discouraging healthy competition and impeding technological progress. They also claim that engineers can already have knowledge of such technologies from their own education and experimentation, and have not necessarily stolen secrets from their former employers.
To prove a company is the victim of trade secret theft, litigants must be able to show that this knowledge is specifically the property or knowledge of the company, and not general knowledge among industry peers. The alleged trade secret theft would also have to put the affected company at a competitive disadvantage. This can be a difficult subject to address, and experienced legal counsel may be advisable.
Source: Los Angeles Times, “Waymo-Uber trade secrets trial puts spotlight on tech's talent war,” Joel Rosenblatt, Jan. 31, 2018