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Man at heart of trade secret fight headed to arbitration

Most Texas companies fiercely protect their trade secrets. When employees steal these trade secrets to benefit one of their former employers' competitors, the former employers may file lawsuits against the employees who stole them.

In an illustrative case involving Google and Uber, Google filed a lawsuit against Uber after one of Google's former employees left the company's Waymo self-driving car division to join Otto, which Uber bought. An engineer was accused of conspiring with Travis Kalanik to steal information about Waymo's lidar technology. The lidar technology is used by self-driving cars to allow them to see the environment around them.

Uber settled the lawsuit against it in February, agreeing to pay Waymo $245 million worth of stock. Google had filed a separate lawsuit against the engineer, and that lawsuit was not included in the earlier settlement. Since Uber had agreed to indemnify the engineer, it is unclear why it didn't try to include his case in the settlement. The case against the engineer is scheduled for arbitration. At risk are $120 million in incentive payments that he had received from Google. In addition to the allegations of trade secrets theft, the company claims that he also enticed away some of its Waymo division staff to join Otto. The arbitration claim involves an alleged breach of contract by the engineer.

Contract issues can be minor or major. Major breaches of a contract may need to go through the court or arbitration process in order to reach resolutions of the disputes. Major contract breaches are ones that are so severe that the parties cannot continue to perform their contractual obligations. In cases such as the one involving the engineer, millions of dollars may be at stake. Businesses that have been harmed by the wrongful actions of former employees might want to get help from experienced attorneys.

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