Sci-tech

Uber appeals ruling against arbitration in Waymo dispute

Uber appeals ruling against arbitration in Waymo dispute

The court case involves Google's Waymo accusing Uber of using proprietary information retrieved by former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski.

Levandowski found the Otto self-driving company in 2016, after leaving Waymo; Otto was then acquired by Uber.

Waymo, the self-driving vehicle subsidiary of Google's Alphabet Inc., has sued Uber, alleging that former Waymo executive Anthony Levandowski took 14,000 confidential documents with him when he left the company to join Uber. But Levandowski is refusing to let the devices that might contain the files be searched, asserting his Fifth Amendment rights to not incriminate himself.

To date Levandowski has exercised his fifth amendment rights in order to avoid self incrimination but now Uber is demanding the engineer comply with the Judges order.

This week also saw Levandowski prohibited from working on Lidar technology in a preliminary injunction, as opposed to halting Uber from working on the technology altogether.

In a letter written earlier in the week and made public on Thursday, Uber's general counsel Salle Yoo stated that any refusal by Levandowski to comply with the investigation could be actionable. "While we have respected your personal liberties, it is our view that the Court's Order requires us to make these demands of you". "Almost fifty years of Supreme Court precedent forbid the government from putting an individual to such an unconstitutionally coercive choice", they wrote.

Last week, Judge Alsup asked federal prosecutors to investigate Uber and Mr. Levandowski for potential trade-secret theft.

According to a legal expert, an appeal is not likely to happen and will not postpone a trial scheduled for October that might tilt the odds in the fight to market autonomous cars that both Uber and Waymo deem will be worth billions of dollars a year. The ride-hailing company is reeling from multiple scandals, including allegations of sexual harassment, and numerous high-level executives have left in recent months.

If the judge agrees with Mr. Levandowski's attorneys and allows him to remain at Uber without cooperating with the judge's order, it could be welcome news for Uber.


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