Crime and No Punishment: Trump Pardons Intellectual Property Thief

On his last days in office, former President Donald Trump issued pardons to convicted criminals. Remarkably, the pardoned included an individual convicted for an intellectual property case.

In general, it was mixture of cases.

As expected, Trump pardoned allies who have been swept up with corruption or lying to the FBI charges. Steve Bannon, for example.

Another group of pardons was to individuals whose cases have been championed by criminal justice reform advocates. The typical case was of persons with harsh drug-related sentences for nonviolent offenses.

An Engineer Expert in Autonomous Cars

But one case stood up from the rest: A former Google engineer who was convicted of stealing the internet giant’s secrets before founding a new company.

His name is Anthony Levandowski.

As a Google employee, Levandowski downloaded more than 14,000 files containing the intellectual property of the autonomous cars division, Waymo, before leaving to found Otto. Soon, Uber acquired Otto and kept the stolen intellectual property.

Uber fired Levandowski. He was later convicted of intellectual property theft.

In February 2017, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, sued Uber over the theft and later settled in 2018.

At the time of the sentencing, the judge in charge of the case said it was “the biggest trade-secret crime I have ever seen”.

Trump Connections Mattered

Connections mattered a lot with former president Trump: Mr. Levandowsky had a good friend who lobbied then President Trump on his behalf.  Levandowski never stepped into a jail due to COVID19 considerations.

Trade Secrets are Intellectual Property

Trade secrets are part of intellectual property, along with trademarks and patents.

Those secrets are the knowledge companies produce. Trade secrets are crucial profit-makers elements and should only be shared on a “need to know” basis.

“Trade secrets are critical to businesses,” says Attorney Marcos E. Garciaacosta. “Trade secrets can be as simple as the recipe of Coca-Cola or Kentucky Fried Chicken or sets of algorithms for self-driving cars”.

Companies must safeguard this knowledge. A good intellectual property attorney can draft documents and establish protocols to enhance intellectual property and trade secrets protection your business needs.


Attorney Marcos E. Garciaacosta is an intellectual property law attorney from the Phoenix Metro area with a global impact.

Schedule a free 14 minutes phone consultation calling at (480) 324-6378.

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