There’s a lot that Google cofounder Larry Page seemingly doesn’t know about Google.
Page, the CEO of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, displayed his apparent lack of knowledge during questioning on July 17 as part of Alphabet’s lawsuit against Uber over self-driving car technology. On Wednesday, Uber’s lawyers asked a judge to compel the executive to be questioned again, claiming that Page wasn’t adequately prepared for the July deposition.
Waymo, a self-driving car startup owned by Alphabet, is suing Uber, claiming that the ride-hail behemoth hired a former Alphabet employee who it knew had stolen trade secrets regarding a patented sensor system used in autonomous vehicles.
The two companies have been duking it out in a series of court hearings and filings since February, ahead of a trial currently scheduled for October.
The latest in that battle came today, with Uber demanding it be allowed to depose Page again. Uber says that based on Page’s deposition — which is littered with claims that he isn’t aware of or can’t recall information about the case and his company — it’s clear the Google founder wasn’t properly prepared by his legal team.
Both sides will have to wait and see what US District Judge William Alsup has to say about that.
In the meantime, here’s a partial list of the things Page said he didn’t know during his deposition:
1. The exact size of the extremely large bonus paid to former Waymo self-driving engineer Anthony Levandowski
Uber’s lawyer: Sir, I'd like to start by asking you some questions about the bonus that was paid to Anthony Levandowski. He received a bonus that was in excess of $120 million; is that right?
Page: I'm not familiar with the exact amount, but that sounds correct.
Uber’s lawyer: You recall it was over 100 million?
Page: I recall it was large.
2. Whether anyone else at Google got a bonus of more than $100 million
Uber's lawyer: Can you think of any other Google employee, during your entire tenure, who has received a bonus in excess of $100 million for anything?
Page: I mean, we've paid a number of Google employees a lot of money. You know, I don't recall the exact amounts. But people have made a lot more money than that as part of Google, including myself.
3. The name of the ranch to which he maybe did or maybe didn’t invite Anthony Levandowski
Uber’s lawyers: There were times when Levandowski visited your home; is that right?
Page: I don’t recall that, but I’m — it’s possible.
Uber’s lawyers: Do you also have a ranch property?
Uber's lawyer: What is it called?
Page: I’m not sure which one you mean or — or — so maybe you can give me more context.
4. How or when he first heard Anthony Levandowski might have stolen files from Waymo
Uber’s lawyer: At what point did you become aware that [Levandowski] may have taken information that you believe belonged to Google?
(Alphabet’s lawyer interjected here, saying, “I want to caution you, Mr. Page, not to disclose privileged communications. Don't talk about anything you learned from a lawyer. He's just asking about timing now. That's all he wants to know, if you can recall.”)
Page: Yeah, I don't recall.
Uber’s lawyer: You don't recall even generally the date?
Uber’s lawyer: Or how you found out?
Page: I don't recall.
5. What, if any, policies Google has about employees founding competing startups while working at Google
Earlier in his deposition, Page said that when he learned of Levandowski’s decision to start Otto, a Waymo competitor, he was “pretty angry about it.” Uber’s lawyer asked if Page if he thought it would have been “inappropriate” for Levandowski to, say, have had “conversations with General Motors, when he was still a Google employee, about maybe starting up a trucking company."
Page: I mean, I'm not a lawyer. I don't know what all the issues would be with that.
Uber’s lawyer: Do you have any issues with that yourself?
Page continued to say he’s not a lawyer, and that it sounds like a legal issue. The lawyer for Uber then said he was asking as a business question, given that Page, while not a lawyer, is CEO of the company that owns Waymo.
Uber’s lawyer: Is there anything at Google, any policy that you're aware of, that prevents employees from talking to third parties about the possibility of doing a startup?
Page: I mean, a startup, that's, you know, exactly what you're currently doing, or something else, or depending on whether we bought your company or not, or many other things. I don't know. That's a complicated question, and I generally would ask my attorney that question to look at that.
Uber’s lawyer: Are you generally aware of the policies of Google?
Page: I mean, there's a lot of policies.
6. What information, exactly, Waymo says Levandowski stole and brought to Uber
Uber’s lawyer: Do you understand that Waymo sued Uber for infringing on patents?
Page: I'm aware that's part of the lawsuit.
Uber’s lawyer: Are you aware of the fact that Waymo has dismissed three of the four patents?
Page: I mean, I've read that in the press, yes.
Uber’s lawyer: What is the patent that is left in the case, as you understand it?
Page: I have no idea.
7. Whether Waymo is even authorized to file lawsuits
Uber's lawyer: Did you authorize the filing of the lawsuit against Uber?
Page: I mean, I'm certainly aware of it, yeah, and then allowed it to proceed, I suppose. I'm not sure I authorized it. I'm not sure that's the right word.
Uber's lawyer: Well, could a lawsuit of this magnitude be filed without your consent and approval?
Page: I mean, I guess I'm not — I'm the CEO of the — parent company of Waymo, and Waymo operates more or less as an independent company.
Uber's lawyer: Is Waymo authorized to file a lawsuit like this on its own without even consulting you?
Page: I mean, I don't know all the details of that.
Uber's lawyer: Well, you're the boss.
8. Whether this lawsuit is important to him or not
Uber’s lawyer: Sir, is this litigation important to you?
Alphabet’s lawyer: Object to form.
Page: Yeah, I'm not sure which litigation you're referring to. But generally, the case here — cases, I suppose.
Uber’s lawyer: I'm asking you specifically about the litigation that Waymo has brought against Uber. Is that litigation important to you?
Page: I mean, in some ways, I would say yes; in some ways, no.
I mean, I think however many years we've been running Google/Alphabet, we've never had to bring a case like this before, which is, you know, a lot of years and a lot of employees.
On the other hand, the scale of our business, it's not — you know, we have a very large business.
9. How Google retains important information such as source code
Lawyer: Do you know the way that Google typically retains things, like source code materials and design specifications, and things like that?
Page: Yeah, I'm not that familiar with how we do that.
Lawyer: Is there an online repository, or do — do you even know that?
Page: I mean, there's some code-based repository thingy.
And here are a few interesting things Page could remember:
1. Which company he’s CEO of
Uber’s lawyer: You tell me. You’re the CEO. My understanding is that [redacted]. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong.
Page: I'm not the CEO of Waymo. I'm the CEO of Alphabet.
2. That Anthony Levandowski is “kind of grumpy person”
Page: And I remember [Levandowski] talking about being interested in trucking — and implying that he could do a startup in that area.
Uber’s lawyer: When you say "implying that he could do a startup," what are the words that he used, if you can recall?
Page: Like, “I am sick of all these people.” I mean, I’m paraphrasing. But, you know, “I’m tired of dealing with all these people who don’t like me” I mean, he’s kind of a grumpy person sometimes. And, you know, “Why don’t I just go do a company that does trucking? And everything will be fine.”
I’m like "No, that’s not fine. Like, that’s the same thing as what you’re doing here. I mean, you can do that, but we are not going to be happy."
(Later, Page added that Levandowski “was just always a bit unhappy.”)
3. That he’s not a lawyer
Uber’s lawyer: With respect to Mr. Levandowski, do you believe that Mr. Levandowski should be able to work in the autonomous vehicle space going forward?
Page’s lawyer: Object to the form of the question; calls for a legal conclusion.
Page: Yeah. I mean, I'm not a lawyer.
Uber declined to comment on this story.
In an email statement, a representative for Waymo's legal team said, "Mr. Page made himself available for deposition and was adequately prepared to testify on issues about which he had knowledge. Unsurprisingly, he does not have knowledge of many central events, such as the meetings Uber had with Anthony Levandowski on the very same days Mr. Levandowski downloaded confidential Waymo files to his personal devices.”
Caroline O'Donovan is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco.
Contact Caroline O'Donovan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
William Alden is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco. Alden covers the technology industry.
Contact William Alden at email@example.com.
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