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Uber had a unit ‘dedicated to stealing trade secrets,’ ex-employee tells court

November 28th, 2017 at 1:49 PM
Uber trade secret theft: Waymo trial

A letter from former Uber employee Richard Jacobs was read in court Tuesday, detailing the existence of a unit inside Uber that was dedicated to stealing trade secrets. Jacobs also testified personally, saying that the unit had anonymous email servers set up outside of Uber’s normal email system, designed to erase communications after a short delay.

Jacobs worked for the now-disbanded Strategic Services Group, which he said focused on corporate espionage. According to Bloomberg‘s reporting from inside the courtroom, Jacobs detailed his activities while working for the group, which he described as unethical but not illegal.

“I did not believe it was patently illegal,” Jacobs told the court, speaking about his work for the Strategic Services Group. “I had questions about the ethics of it. I suppose because of my personal ethics it felt overly aggressive and invasive.”

Jacobs was testifying as part of the ongoing legal dispute between Uber and Waymo, Google’s spin-off self-driving car company. Waymo alleges that Uber stole trade secrets from the company, in particular when former Waymo employee Anthony Levandowski took gigabytes of Waymo files before leaving the company for Uber.

However, Jacobs and his allegations are new players in the court battle. Judge William Alsup was informed by US prosecutors about Jacobs’ allegations last week; prosecutors said they communicated with Jacobs during a probe into trade-secret theft at Uber.

His evidence has already delayed the trial date, which was set for December 4th. Alsup implied that there may be no need for Waymo to go to trial in order to win the case, based on the new evidence.

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