Weinberger Law Newsletter – January 2021
“The Times They Are A-Changin’” Peter Paul and Mary, 1964
Wow, how true is this almost 60 years later? Our communications, interactions, safety, faith lives – literally everything seems to have changed. We at Weinberger Law came to realize that we must change too, in the way we deliver and charge for our services, and in the ways we can meet our clients’ needs effectively and economically. This month, therefore, we unveil Fractional General Counsel. This is an innovative, cutting-edge program designed to provide day-to-day, on-call legal services to small and medium-sized businesses that are not in a position to hire a full-time in-house general counsel, or who shudder each time they need to contact an attorney for fear of the costs involved.
We have seen far too often clients who hold off on picking up the phone when a legal problem is brewing, only to have the problem multiply in size and become much more expensive to resolve down the road. Fractional General Counsel provides you with the benefits of having an in-house general counsel to whom you can turn in real time as problems arise, without the typical costs of hiring one, and with predictability of cost. If you think this service may be of benefit to your business, we urge you to give us a try. There are no long-term contracts or commitments required, and there is no obligation to continue to use us if we are not the fit you desire. Fractional General Counsel – a radically different mode for the delivery of business legal services for these ever-changing times.
“Should I call my attorney to ask this question or should I just wait and see what happens…?”
We have all wondered this before. Choosing between saving money or being legally protected is a tough choice that might even be necessary, but it could be extremely harmful for you and your business.
Luckily, you don’t have to make the hard choice any longer!
Well, Pardon Me… I Mean You… and Salutations, Mr. Levandowski
There’s no doubt the last 24 hours of Donald J Trump’s presidency were busy. If any of you have ever moved to a new house or apartment, you know all too well that last and final look you take around the domicile, which is followed by a flurry of activity on the way out – sliding the kitchen drawers open, checking every closet, opening the washing machine to hunt for laundry you might’ve forgotten about with everything going on, and double-checking anywhere and everywhere for something you may have left behind.Now imagine you are the President, leaving the White House for a final time, and you also need to squeeze in the traditional and term-concluding pardons and sentence commutations. Within the very first few minutes after midnight on Tuesday, or technically in the pre-wee hours of Wednesday morning, January 20th, 2021, 143 of these were on the Commander-In-Chief’s agenda.
You might remember from our October newsletter an article titled “Protecting Your Company’s IP: From Google Engineer to 18 Months in a FedPen”. Anthony Levandowski is the main character of the piece, and as you may already be aware, we need to… update… the story a bit. To recap, Mr Levandowski, a self-driving technology engineer whose name came up quite a few times related to companies other than Google and in several lawsuits, had the pleasure of being the subject of a federal indictment, which included an impressive-in-an-innocent-until-proven-guilty way of 33 counts of thieving trade secrets. After one sweetheart of a deal was negotiated, he entered a guilty plea to only one count, #33, which involved Chauffeur Weekly Update, an internal document with priceless knowledge, like technical bugs and their fixes, financial information, and self-driving project goals and results. This information would be rather handy, and save time and money, for anyone looking to get into the same type of project at another company – which apparently, Levandowski was secretly pursuing. During arbitration for a different case, it was shown that the engineer was principally involved with Odin Wave, Tyto Lidar, and Otto, 3 self-driving companies other than Google that competed with Google in that particular industry at the same time he was working at Google! That’s a lot of Googles, but they really do demonstrate the brazen – and dare we say greedy – activities of Levandowski, who also used the data gleaned to Uber’s benefit while he was working there. As you can see, there really was a lot going on with him and it’s somewhat convoluted and difficult to follow, but we explained it all in our October article linked above.
Enter the COVID-19 pandemic! In addition to his March 2020 guilty plea of literally 3% of what the indictment listed, he confessed to downloading thousands of files chock-full of extremely valuable Project Chauffeur details. And, to round out the past, that guilty-to-#33 plea won him an 18-month trip to be a ward of the federal prison system, with his ‘big house vacay’ to start when the COVID-19 pandemic was no longer a threat. (So, yes, for those of you keeping track, he still would not have been in custody as of the publishing of this article.)
Enter President Trump! Anthony Levandowski was officially granted a full pardon on January 20, 2021. In the White House’s announcement, there were 13 names mentioned as supporting the actual pardon request, including 3 that were his current lawyers and several Silicon Valley technology thought leaders. It also reads, “Mr. Levandowski is an American entrepreneur who led Google’s efforts to create self-driving technology.”, which of course leaves out that pesky little stealing intellectual property stuff. The administration’s statement continues, “Mr. Levandowski pled guilty to a single criminal count arising from civil litigation.”, and that’s definitely true, but it certainly leaves out the fact that he was federally indicted on 33, and a civil lawsuit was by far not the only legal action he was listed as a defendant in. And finally, the notice of Levandowski’s pardon shares, “Notably, his sentencing judge called him a “brilliant, groundbreaking engineer that our country needs.”” Well, U.S. District Judge William Alsup, who – interestingly enough – studied civil engineering before law, also said at the sentencing hearing, “This was not a small crime. This was the biggest trade secret crime I have ever seen. This was massive in scale.”
At 12:05am California time that pardon-filled morning, Anthony Levandowski issued a grateful and thankful tweet. We hope the last half of the final sentence of his pardon announcement rings true: “Mr. Levandowski has paid a significant price for his actions and plans to devote his talents to advance the public good.” The legal background was very interesting, and at times, read more like a soap opera or hour-long drama script. We wish the best of luck to any of his future employers, and advise they get ironclad intellectual property protection in place by way of a contract – or several – seeing as history often repeats itself.
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