Friday, 20 October, 2017

Evidence in Uber-Waymo case referred to criminal prosecutors

Alphabet's lawsuit against Uber will go to trial Uber-Waymo Referred For Criminal Prosecution, Private Arbitration Rejected
Stacy Diaz | 17 May, 2017, 11:24

Just when Uber thought that its legal battle against Waymo would end up costing them their self-driving business at worst, here comes the hammer of justice to prove them wrong.

After Uber bought Otto, Levandowski took over oversight of Uber's self-driving auto division. The Harvard Law graduate has experience in trials involving high-profile technology companies, including a 2012 patent and copyright infringement case pitting Oracle against Google. Levandowski, though not party to Waymo's suit, has so far invoked his 5th Amendment rights to avoid self-incrimination should the case become a criminal matter.

Waymo had accused a former manager, who is now at Uber, of downloading more than 14,000 highly confidential and proprietary files shortly before resigning.

Other orders justifying the referral remain sealed, so it remains unclear what prompted the judge to recommend the case for federal prosecution.

Uber pushed for arbitration arguing that a clause in Levandowski's contract stipulated that any disputes between him and Waymo should be settled out of court, in arbitration.

LiDAR technology, which is one of the key parts of a lawsuit Waymo has leveled against Uber, relies on laser beams to bounce off a car's surroundings, essentially helping the self-driving auto to "see" other cars, pedestrians and obstacles in its path.

As if adding insult to injury, Alsup granted Waymo's request for an injunction to stop Uber from using those stolen trade secrets in its self-driving efforts. "It is unfortunate that Waymo will be permitted to avoid abiding by the arbitration promise it requires its employees to make", it said in a statement.

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Waymo alleges that these trade secrets are benefiting Uber's autonomous vehicle development and the firm has requested damages as well as a legal order which would prevent Uber using this information for their own gain.

The case is Waymo LLC v. Uber Technologies Inc., 17-00939, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

Representatives for Uber and Waymo did not have immediate comment.

Two, there will be an ugly and very public court fight between Waymo and Uber, since the possibility of arbitration has been removed.

In the complaint filed in February, Waymo accused Levandowski of downloading 14,000 files to a memory card while he was heading its driverless auto project. "Its decision to bring separate claims against defendants in court was not only reasonable but also the only course available, since Waymo had no arbitration agreement with defendants", the judge wrote in court documents.

"Neither proceeding has anything to do with Waymo's claims of trade secret misappropriation against defendants here", writes Alsup.

In his 10-page ruling, Alsup also addressed Uber's accusations that Waymo chose not to name Levandowski as a defendant in order to dodge its own arbitration requirements, even though its claims center around Levandowski's alleged misconduct while he was at Waymo.

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