U.S. District Judge William Alsup ruled that Uber could not force the lawsuit into private arbitration.
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. Uber purchased Otto in August in a deal reportedly worth $680 million.
Before we go on: A refresher on all the names and companies involved.
Lastly, Alsup has yet to decide whether to issue a preliminary injunction against Uber. Waymo also claims that it's uncovered correspondence showing that Uber began to woo Levandowski before he left Google.
Judge Alsup made a point during the hearing of saying that Waymo's lawyers had proven their case against Levandowski stealing the technology, but he was notably less certain about whether Uber was complicit in the theft, suggesting that the company could be entirely innocent and simply hired a talented engineer. "We welcome the court's decision today, and we look forward to holding Uber responsible in court for its misconduct", a statement from the autonomous-vehicle company said. Somewhat ironically, Levandoswki isn't named as a defendant in Waymo's lawsuit against Uber.
Waymo said it never consented to arbitrate the dispute with Uber and contended it couldn't be coerced into an informal resolution process just because the trade secrets it's fighting to protect happen to have come from former Waymo employees.More news: Brent oil price exceeds $52/bbl
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The lawsuit centers around whether Anthony Levandowski, who used to work at Google's self-driving vehicle division (now known as Waymo) and had led Uber's self-driving ambitions, left the company with trade secrets. In a statement the company said "we remain confident in our case and welcome the chance to talk about our independently developed technology". Waymo alleged the documents allowed Uber to fast-track its own technology and avoid years of costly research.
Uber executive Anthony Levandowski allegedly downloaded 14,000 documents to his personal computer before quitting his job last January as an executive with Google.
Two, there will be an ugly and very public court fight between Waymo and Uber, since the possibility of arbitration has been removed.
"Neither proceeding has anything to do with Waymo's claims of trade secret misappropriation against defendants here", writes Alsup. "Its decision to bring separate claims against defendants in court was not only reasonable but the only course available".
Uber has vehemently denied using Waymo's ideas, maintaining that its Lidar is radically different.
The judge presiding over Waymo's claim blaming Uber for taking trade formulas has requested the federal prosecutors to examine the matter.