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Judge asks federal prosecutors to investigate Uber

17 May 2017

Judge Alsop also ruled late on Thursday on Waymo's request for a preliminary injunction against Uber, an action that could seriously dent its driverless auto effort, though the decision remained under seal while it was determined whether some parts of the order should be redacted.

- February 23: Waymo, a self-driving auto company spun off from Google, sues Uber.

Uber buys Otto, acquiring Levandowski in the process. The Harvard Law graduate has experience in trials involving high-profile technology companies, including a 2012 patent and copyright infringement case pitting Oracle against Google.

April 2017: Levandowski refuses to testify in the case, arguing that doing so would violate his Fifth Amendment rights, which protect people from self-incrimination.

"As Judge Alsup recounted in Thursday's opinion, Uber alleged that Waymo used "'artful" or "tactical' pleading to evade its arbitration obligations". The former Waymo employee has invoked his right against self-incrimination and, therefore, can not testify on Uber's behalf. But the judge rejected that request, meaning the case will play out in a public court, risking further image damage for Uber.

Uber said in a statement to AFP that it would not comment on the injunction, adding that "the order is now under seal so we can't speculate about what it says".

The stolen information reportedly includes the details of Waymo's proprietary LiDAR sensor and radar system, as well as maps of circuit boards.

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The judge late on Thursday temporarily blocked a limited part of Uber's driverless vehicle program, which Google alleges benefited from the stolen trade secrets.

"It is unfortunate that Waymo will be permitted to avoid abiding by the arbitration promise it requires its employees to make", the statement said.

Self-driving vehicle firm Waymo sued Uber over the alleged theft of more than 14,000 confidential files by former Waymo employee Anthony Levandowski before he left the company.

Uber didn't immediately respond to request for comment. Alsup told Waymo earlier this month that the company had only proved Levandowski downloaded 14,000 documents, but not that he handed them over to Uber.

Technology companies Uber and Waymo, along with Detroit automakers, are in a cutthroat race to develop self-driving technology, which they think could define the future of transportation in the United States.

Waymo's lawyer pointed out that Levandowski isn't a defendant in the case. "I've never seen a record this strong in 42 years", wrote Alsup. That means the case will go to court, but the judge also recommended that the case go to federal prosecutors to investigate whether Uber is guilty of theft.

In a statement late Thursday, Waymo said, "this was a desperate bid by Uber to avoid the court's jurisdiction". Waymo had asked for the injunction to prevent Uber from using its technology while the case proceeds, which would be a significant blow to an already trouble-plagued company.

Judge asks federal prosecutors to investigate Uber