Waymo's claims of trade secret theft could result in criminal case

Alphabet's lawsuit against Uber will go to trial

District Judge William Alsup, hearing the litigation in the US District Court of the Northern District of California after Waymo accused Uber of trade secret theft and unfair competition, referred the case to for prosecution on 11 May and denied Uber's motion to compel arbitration.

When Waymo sued Uber earlier this year, claiming that its former employee stole 14,000 documents containing trade secrets about its self-driving vehicle project and took the documents to Uber, it was a stain on Uber's reputation.

In putting the case forward to the US Attorney, the judge also denied a request by Uber which would have forced the lawsuit out of court and into arbitration. The judge said he took "no position" on whether criminal prosecution should occur. An update on the legal battle between Waymo and Uber is expected to follow in the coming weeks after the contents of Judge Alsup's preliminary injunction ruling are revealed. Waymo claims Levandowski met with Uber's senior executives days before he resigned, that Uber knew it would be illegally acquiring Waymo's technology, and bought Otto to fast-track Uber's floundering driverless auto program.

This mess of allegations and rebuttals is particularly fraught for Uber given Levandowski's reportedly cozy relationship with CEO Travis Kalanick.

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

"These accusations are unwarranted", Alsup wrote in his ruling. "We remain confident in our case and welcome the chance to talk about our independently developed technology in any forum", Niki Christoff, a spokeswoman for the company, said in a statement.

"This was a desperate bid by Uber to avoid the court's jurisdiction", a Waymo spokesperson said of the decision regarding arbitration. If the court finds that Uber used Google's Lidar technology, that will slow Uber's autonomous auto research, leaving it behind competitors.

The case centers on Levandowski's alleged theft of a trove of blueprints and documents relating to the self-driving vehicle technology known as LiDAR when he was an outgoing employee of Google.

Uber hit back against the request in April, calling it a "misfire" and claiming that a search of Uber's computers had "not yielded any of the 14,000 files Waymo alleges that Uber misappropriated".

In an email to employees announcing the change, Levandowski said he hopes his removal from all LiDAR projects will help "keep the team focused on achieving the vision that brought us all here".

Uber did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The ride-hailing company had referred to Waymo's own arbitration proceedings against Levandowski as the basis for its argument in favor of arbitration. The ride-hailing giant, which is valued by private investors at almost $70 billion, is also facing a criminal probe by the Justice Department over the company's use of software that was created to evade authorities in cities where Uber was not yet legal.

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