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Uber accused of illegal spying and stealing trade secrets

Companies have a vested interest in protecting trade secrets from competitors in an effort to maintain an advantage in the marketplace. The government recognizes the need for healthy market competition and will prosecute companies which steal another’s assets.

Uber is being investigated by authorities for allegedly illegal practices under its previous CEO, Travis Kalanick. Some of the allegations include employees pursuing illegal intelligence activities to obtain trade secrets from Uber’s rivals. 

The case against Uber

A letter shared in court, written by a former Uber employee, states that the ride sharing company spied on their rivals’ employees, drivers and key executives for years. Moreover, Uber systemically supported this practice by establishing departments whose sole purpose was to stalk these individuals in real life and via electronic communications.

This sounds more like a major motion picture than business practices used by major companies. Uber’s emphasis on aggressive growth at any cost may have contributed to these practices.

Waymo trade secrets case

Waymo, now owned by Google, alleges that Uber stole designs for its sensors used in self driving cars. In the case, Waymo claims that Uber hired a former employee of theirs who downloaded the proprietary designs and shared them with Uber. Uber continues to deny the allegations.

In addition, Uber is implicated in five other federal investigations. In one said case, Uber supposedly used software called “Greyball” to avoid law enforcement all over the world.

Employees let go in the post-scandal clean-up at Uber claim that the allegations in the letter are untrue and were made by a disgruntled colleague who was just out to make money.

Next steps for Uber and other companies

Uber’s scandals and the continued fall-out illustrate the need in competitive environments for businesses to have clear policies for ethics and management of trade secrets. While it may take years for the cases against Uber to be fully resolved, the damage to the company’s reputation may already be complete in the eyes of the consumer.

To navigate the complex world of trade secrets, business litigation and how it all comes together, you should consider seeking the advice of an attorney who focuses on employment law.

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