Judge Hands Over Waymo's Lawsuit Against Uber To US Prosecutor

In an order signed yesterday, District Judge William Alsup called for the USA attorney to investigate the alleged theft of Waymo's self-driving auto technology.

Waymo originally filed the lawsuit in February, saying in general that a team of ex-Google engineers stole the company's blueprint for the LiDAR sensor, which helps a vehicle map the environment around it - a critical component for driverless auto development.

A contentious lawsuit between Uber and Alphabet's Waymo unit will not move to a legal private forum, a US judge said Thursday, dealing a blow to the ride-hailing company.

The first blow against Uber was Judge William Alsup's decision to deny Uber's request that the case enter into arbitration - thereby keeping the case out of the public eye. Alsup said he took "no position" on whether a criminal prosecution was warranted.

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Uber has argued that Waymo's lawsuit was just a tactic to stall a competitor in the race for the billions of dollars attached to the coming autonomous auto revolution. Somewhat ironically, Levandoswki isn't named as a defendant in Waymo's lawsuit against Uber.

That order is not publicly available, and Judge Alsup styled it as a grant of provisional relief rather than an injunction.

Should the U.S. Attorney accept the case and find Uber guilty of theft, Uber could be looking at criminal prosecution.

The judge highlighted that in this case, Waymo was not bound by arbitration.

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Uber didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. "I've never seen a record this strong in 42 years", wrote Alsup. Arbitrators, who are usually lawyers or retired judges, are required to keep proceedings confidential, including final outcomes, but parties can speak publicly about awards unless they've agreed to keep quiet, according to Charlotte Garden, an associate law professor at Seattle University.

When Uber bought Otto, it appointed Levandowksi, who previously worked at Waymo, as its head of self-driving technology. One denies the company's request to shift the case to closed-door arbitration, the other places restrictions on Uber's self-driving vehicle program. Alsup also noted that Levandowski's exercise of his Fifth Amendment rights "has obstructed and continues to obstruct both discovery and defendants' ability to construct a complete narrative as to the fate of Waymo's purloined files".

"We look forward to holding Uber responsible in court for its misconduct", Waymo said in a statement. "This was a desperate bid by Uber to avoid the court's jurisdiction", Johnny Luu, a company spokesperson, wrote in an email. Waymo accuses Uber and Levandowski of being partners in crime and stealing the files after the ride-sharing company purchased the start-up for $680 million.

"As Judge Alsup recounted in Thursday's opinion, Uber alleged that Waymo used "'artful" or "tactical' pleading to evade its arbitration obligations".

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