In 2018, the year of Weibo’s alleged theft, autonomous vehicle technology companies had high valuations as they raced to develop the technology first, Peters said.
Around the same time, Anthony Levandowski, who helped found Google’s self-driving company, Waymo, was convicted of stealing intellectual property from the company to start Otto, an autonomous trucking company, which was acquired by Uber Technologies.
In 2020, Levandowski pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 months in prison for trade secret theft related to Google’s self-driving car program. In 2021, Levandowski was pardoned by President Donald Trump.
“There was a feeling within the autonomous vehicle industry that there was some magic bullet that … if you learned how to develop this algorithm that would enable autonomous vehicles, it could mean billions of dollars in value for a company and millions upon millions of dollars for the people who were able to deliver that,” Peters said.
As for potential action that could be taken against Jidu, Jeanne Gills, an intellectual property attorney at Foley and Lardner, told Automotive News that Apple could initiate a US International Trade Commission proceeding to ban the company from importing cars that use technology that infringes on its patents and other trade sanctions.