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Baidu Launches Self-Driving Car Court Battle


Baidu has accused the former head of its self-driving unit of stealing trade secrets to launch his own venture

In a Far Eastern version of the Waymo-Uber court battle, Chinese tech giant Baidu has sued a former executive for allegedly stealing trade secrets about self-driving technology, and leveraging them to launch a rival venture.

According to Technode, Beijing-based Baidu— a major AI player many compare to Google’s parent company Alphabet—decided to launch the RMB 50 million (£5.6 million) lawsuit against its erstwhile senior vice-president Wang Jin after he founded driverless technology startup JingChi.

Before resigning in March 2017, Wang had been in charge of Baidu’s autonomous vehicles unit, and he is credited for overseeing many of the breakthroughs the tech giants attained over the last few years.

But Baidu took offence to Wang’s decision to launch a company that is a direct competitor of his former employer. That, Baidu, says, is in breach of a non-compete clause Wang had accepted when leaving the company; furthermore, Baidu accuses Wang of keeping his work computer after he left, and of using intellectual property on the machine to jump-start JinChi in April 2017.

US-based JinChi managed to trial its self-driving car on a public road in June 2017—an impressive achievement for a two-month-old company, which Baidu chalks up to Wang’s dirty tricks.

The case is now before the Intellectual Property Court in Beijing. Apart from the money, Baidu demands that JinChi stops using the trade secrets it allegedly stole.

The controversy echoes a similar dispute over self-driving technology that has been unfolding between Uber and  Waymo throughout the last ten months.

In February 2017, Alphabet’s self-driving subsidiary Waymo brought Uber  to court, alleging that the latter had stolen some of its patented trade secrets.

The case revolves around a former Waymo engineer— Anthony Levandowski— who, on leaving Alphabet, launched a driverless trucks company later acquired by Uber. Waymo accused Levandowski of misappropriating secrets about LiDAR technology; as of December 2017, the trial is still pending.


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