Eric Swildens, an engineer who doesn’t work in the self-driving car industry, spent $6,000 of his own money to block Waymo from getting a patent on the lidar technology it says it invented. Swildens spent the six grand so he could file a challenge with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) over Waymo’s 936 patent, which led to the USPTO rejecting 53 out of 56 claims in Waymo’s patent, reports ArsTechnica.
The 936 patent was key in Waymo’s battle against Uber in a legal battle running since 2016 in which Waymo accused Uber of using allegedly stolen intellectual property. Waymo, owned by Alphabet, ended up prevailing, partly thanks to its 936 patent. In the end, Uber had to pay Waymo $245 million worth of equity to settle the lawsuit.
But now it turns out Uber could have saved a huge chunk of cash since the lone engineer’s actions have resulted in most of the 936 patent being ruled invalid. “As I investigated the 936 patent, it became clear it was invalid due to prior art for multiple reasons,” Swildens said. “I only filed the reexamination because I was absolutely sure the patent was invalid.”
Though Swildens’s actions proved pivotal in the USPTO ruling most of the 936 patent invalid, he won’t receive any money or personal advantage from the decision. And he won’t be filing more patent challenges with the USPTO anytime soon, telling ArsTechnica he’s too busy right now to file any more challenges.