Lyft Inc. escalated the battle to crack the taxi and limousine market overseas with a lawsuit accusing a former executive of defecting to Uber Technologies Inc. with proprietary documents about Lyft’s international expansion plans.

Lyft sued Travis VanderZanden, who stepped down as chief operating officer in August and joined Uber last month as vice president of international growth, for breach of contract in a complaint filed yesterday in state court in San Francisco.

VanderZanden transferred “Lyft’s most sensitive documents,” which contained future financial information,
strategic planning, customer lists, private personnel data and international growth plans, to his personal Dropbox account in the days and months before he left the company, Lyft said in the complaint.

He has used the confidential and proprietary data in his current employment with Uber, according to the complaint.

“We are disappointed to have to take this step, but this unusual situation has left us no choice but to take the necessary legal action to protect our confidential information,” Lyft said in an e-mail. “We are incredibly proud of the dedicated and people-powered culture that we’ve fostered to support drivers, passengers and the entire Lyft community and we will not tolerate this type of behavior.”

Another Executive

VanderZanden and another former Lyft executive, Steve Schnell, who joined Uber last month to boost its international footprint left Lyft after disagreements with its co-founders, Logan Green and John Zimmer, over how the company was being run, people with direct knowledge of the situation said last week.

Lyft alleges VanderZanden violated his confidentiality agreement with the company and seeks a court order for the return of the information.

Eva Behrend, a spokeswoman for Uber, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail after regular business hours yesterday seeking comment on the lawsuit. Both companies are based in San Francisco.

Uber’s lawyer has told Lyft that “VanderZanden ‘has no Lyft proprietary information in his possession, not now, not when he started at Uber, and not since he left Lyft,’” according to Lyft’s complaint.

Uploading Documents

VanderZanden systematically uploaded confidential and proprietary Lyft documents to his personal account with Dropbox, a cloud-based file storage service, and he can access this account from any computer, according to the complaint. He also copied work e-mails and contacts to his personal computer and
iPhone, Lyft said.

VanderZanden sold his iPhone on an Internet site, rather than hand it over to Lyft to make sure it contained no proprietary information, the company said. Uber has denied that VanderZanden’s phone had any proprietary data after he left,
according to the complaint.

“Neither VanderZanden nor Uber explained why VanderZanden chose to sell his phone in the first instance,” Lyft said. “An odd thing for a high-net worth individual to do, it was likely to cover his tracks and dispose of evidence of his misdeeds.”

The case is Lyft v. VanderZanden, GCG-14-542554, California Superior Court, San Francisco.

(An earlier version of this story was corrected regarding the timing of VanderZanden’s start at Uber.)

Correction: The original headline of this story “Lyft Sues Uber Over Hiring Its Ex-COO for International Expansion” was changed to reflect the proper target of Lyft’s lawsuit.

To contact the reporter on this story: Karen Gullo in federal court in San Francisco at kgullo@bloomberg.net. To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net, Peter Blumberg

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Photo Credit: Uber's CEO Travis Kalanick on state at Techrunch. Flickr