Judge refers theft allegations against Uber to US Attorney

Alphabet's lawsuit against Uber will go to trial

Alphabet's lawsuit against Uber will go to trial

Uber may face criminal charges over its alleged theft of trade secrets from Google-owned self-driving auto upstart Waymo.

A federal judge ruled Thursday that Waymo's driverless-car trade secrets lawsuit against Uber Technologies Inc. will stay in open court, rejecting the ride-hailing giant's request to push it into closed-door arbitration.

The possibility of an investigation adds to mounting issues facing Uber and its embattled chief executive, Travis Kalanick.

The judge's squeamishness about Uber's litigation gamesmanship is nowhere near the top of the company's long list of legal problems, which already includes a criminal investigation of its alleged use of software to help drivers evade transportation regulators as well as this case and class actions by drivers and passengers. That criminal investigation is ongoing, according to people familiar with the matter.

Alsup noted that since Anthony Levandowski was not a defendant in the case, Uber can not use his arbitration agreement with Waymo to discuss the trade secrets claims in the private forum. It also compounds Uber's other legal problems, he said in an interview Friday.

In another blow, the judge denied Uber's request to move the case out of the courts and into arbitration.

That puts the case on track for a trial by jury and all the public scrutiny that comes with it. Waymo filed the lawsuit in February.

Yesterday, Alsup also granted an injunction against Uber.

By contrast, the judge said Uber lawyers had behaved "unfairly" when they cited supporting precedent for the first time in a reply brief.

Immediately after the ruling, Waymo said in a statement, "This was a desperate bid by Uber to avoid the court's jurisdiction".

Waymo claims the stolen information made its way into Uber's Lidar system, a sensor that uses light pulses to "see" the environment. Waymo claims that Uber gained an unfair advantage by getting Lidar files that Levandowsky allegedly stole before leaving the company. Levandowski subsequently co-founded self-driving truck start-up Otto that was acquired months later by Uber. Waymo's case centered around Anthony Levandowski, a longtime Google employee who left to start his own self-driving trucking company, Otto, in 2016. Uber launched its self-driving project in 2015 and has since rolled out autonomous vehicles to city streets in Pennsylvania, California and Arizona.

Uber has been battered by negative publicity this year.

And the company's culture has been called into question this year.

Both Levandowski and Uber have refused to testify or turn over key documents in the case - actions Alsup slammed Thursday.

Uber is now being investigated for allegedly using phony software to throw off city officials trying to determine if Uber is abiding by local regulations in two cities. That case concerns an piece of software developed by Uber called Greyball, which was created to mislead regulators about the company's operations. The company said it was used to deny ride requests from fraudulent users.

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