Uber accused of stealing trade secrets from Waymo in groundbreaking trial

SAN FRANCISCO -- A technology tug of war is playing out in a San Francisco courtroom. The ride-sharing company Uber is accused of stealing trade secrets from Google's self-driving car company, Waymo.

A chauffeur-driven SUV that delivered Uber's co-founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick to federal court. Kalanick resigned as Uber CEO amid controversy last June, and is the star witness in a trial that could shape the self-driving car industry.

Waymo-Uber Technology Theft Trial Continues In San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 6: Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick leaves the Philip Burton Federal Building after testifying on day two of the trial between Waymo and Uber Technologies on February 6, 2018 in San Francisco, California.

Elijah Nouvelage / Getty Images

"This is Google against Uber for our futures," said David Franklin, a trade secret attorney. "This is a case about domination of the future, [a] hugely important area of technology."

Google, which has been developing self-driving vehicles since 2009, is claiming Uber stole trade secrets to advance driverless cars -- secrets so sensitive they have been revealed only to the jury.

Kalanick built Uber into the dominant ride-sharing company while building his own reputation as a fierce and volatile competitor, even fighting with one of his own drivers, who recorded the confrontation. It's an image Google's attorneys accentuated, in a remarkable moment in court Wednesday, showing the jury a famous Michael Douglas speech from the movie "Wall Street."

"The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good," Douglas' character says in the film.

Greed, Google contends, led Kalanick to hire a former Google engineer Anthony Lewandowski, who stole Google's self-driving trade secrets. But Uber says it has only used technology that is common knowledge.

"It all really comes down to what particular information did they use and should they have realized that the engineer from Google had obtained it in violation of the law," said Franklin.

Billions of dollars are at stake for Uber if it loses. The case shows these two tech industry giants are certain there are many more billions of dollars to be made building self-driving cars.

  • John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.