Judge: Uber can’t push Waymo lawsuit into arbitration

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An Uber driverless Ford Fusion in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
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Uber won’t be allowed to move the trade secrets lawsuit brought by Waymo into arbitration, a federal judge ruled (PDF) late Wednesday.

In a separate order (PDF), US District Judge William Alsup referred the case to the US attorney for investigation, “based on the evidentiary record supplied thus far.”

“The Court takes no position on whether a prosecution is or is not warranted, a decision entirely up to the United States Attorney,” Alsup wrote.

The full details of Alsup’s thoughts on the referral are unknown, as the relevant orders are sealed. However, in previous hearings, Alsup said that Google has strong evidence that Waymo engineer Anthony Levandowski illegally downloaded 14,000 files while he was employed at Google. Uber doesn’t deny that the downloads occurred, and Levandowski has asserted his 5th Amendment rather than answer questions.

filed a lawsuit against Uber in February, saying that Levandowski stole trade secrets, then left Google to found his own startup, Otto. Uber later purchased Otto for $680 million. Waymo also claimed that Uber infringed certain Waymo-owned patents.

In a court hearing two weeks ago, Uber argued that the trade secret litigation should be moved into arbitration. Levandowski’s employee agreement with Google clearly said that “any dispute” about his relationship with the company should go into arbitration.

Waymo’s lawyer pointed out that Levandowski isn’t a defendant in the case. “We’re suing a third-party competitor who we didn’t have any agreement with,” said Waymo lawyer Charles Verhoeven during the hearing.

“Defendants seek to steer this case into arbitration even though they have no agreement with anyone to arbitrate the case,” Alsup wrote in last night’s order.

whether or not to slap Uber with a preliminary injunction, which could limit what kinds of self-driving car work the ride-share company could do.

The case is currently scheduled for trial in October.

More on Waymo v. Uber:

  • On February 23, Google’s Waymo division filed a lawsuit claiming that Uber’s self-driving car chief, Anthony Levandowski, illegally downloaded 14,000 files when he worked at Google.
  • On March 29, during a closed-door hearing, Levandowski’s lawyer said his client would plead the Fifth to avoid testifying about documents that he may have.
  • On April 3, Google accused Levandowski of creating “competing side businesses,” even while he earned a reported $120 million from Google.
  • On May 3, the two companies argued over whether Uber should be hit with a court order barring it from working on self-driving cars.

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