Waymo's Lawsuit Against Uber Going to Federal Prosecutors

17 May 2017, 11:16 | Myrtle Hill

People outside the Uber offices in Queens New York U.S

People outside the Uber offices in Queens New York U.S

That means the high-profile case is expected to go to public trial later this year.

There's still a lot of uncertainty around all of this - both Uber and Waymo have fair amount of legal options still available to them (including, of course, Uber settling out of court, though that seems wildly unlikely at this point).

But according to judge Alsup, Waymo was not bound to arbitration in this case. Waymo had sought an injunction that would preclude Uber from "making, using, selling, or offering to sell" devices that, it alleged, infringed on its patents.

Alsup also has issued a ruling, which remains under seal, on Waymo's request for an injunction against Uber that would effectively halt its self-driving auto testing program, which would be a stumbling block in Uber's ambitions to develop fully autonomous vehicles.

Waymo filed a suit in February in the California court, alleging that a former employee Anthony Levandowski stole trade secrets relating to self-driving cars before leaving to start Otto, a self-driving trucking company that was later acquired by Uber.

Grab the popcorn and set your phone to vibrate: the messy lawsuit between Waymo (aka Google's self-driving auto project) and Uber (aka the ride-sharing company that needs another bad headline like Mark Zuckerberg needs another million dollars) is going to play out in public.

FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016, file photo, a self-driving Uber vehicle stops at a red light on Liberty Avenue through the Bloomfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh. The ride-hailing company is already dealing with a number of legal and image problems. Uber later purchased Otto for $680 million.

Uber has denied using Waymo technology, but the case has been complicated by Levandowski's invocation of his fifth amendment right against self-incrimination.

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In addition, Alsup denied Uber's request to force the high-tech corporate espionage lawsuit out of court and into arbitration. Waymo claims he absconded with 14,000 top secret documents, an allegation that Alsup has said is not in question. Details of the injunction, however, remain under seal. Some critics have said the move is just about "optics".

Uber has been battered by negative publicity this year. The company's treatment of its independent-contractor drivers has also been a constant focus of attention and almost led to a trial in California.

Waymo vs. Uber: what's the lawsuit about?

"This is bad news for Uber", said Timothy Heaphy, a former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, who now chairs a white collar defense and internal investigations practice at the law firm Hunton & Williams.

"It is unfortunate that Waymo will be permitted to avoid abiding by the arbitration promise it requires its employees to make", the statement said.

Waymo declined to comment on the judge's investigation request to federal prosecutors.

Waymo, unsurprisingly, was more optimistic.

Immediately after the ruling, Waymo said in a statement, "This was a desperate bid by Uber to avoid the court's jurisdiction". "We don't have any basis for disputing that", Uber's attorney Arturo Gonzalez said in court last week, adding that "there's no evidence" Levandowski consulted the Waymo files once he began working at Uber.



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