Waymo faced a new setback in its legal fight with Uber following a set of unfavorable rulings before the trial is scheduled to start next month. This is after a judge of the federal court rejected a major trade-secret theft claim indicating that one of Waymo’s former engineers conspired with Uber. Additionally a technical analysis conducted by an expert witness of Waymo was rejected by the judge.
A defendant in the case was also dismissed and this is likely to place extra pressure on Waymo since it will require proof that there was misconduct aside from the engineer misappropriating proprietary information.
Not publicly available
According to legal experts it is impossible to tell what impact the ruling by the judge will have on the case since a significant number of the documents filed in court which describe details of the trade secrets are publicly available. Dismissing the claim will, however, not lead to a reduction in the damages that Waymo is asking for. Waymo was asking for damages to the tune of $1.86 billion and had originally filed 121 separate claims though it was ordered to reduce them in order to ensure that the case didn’t get unwieldy.
William Alsup, a U.S. District Judge, ruled that Otto Truck would not be Uber’s co-defendant in the case. Otto Trucking is the startup that was founded by Anthony Levandowski, the engineer accused of stealing trade secrets and technology from Waymo. The startup was a few months after formation acquired by Uber.
In the judge’s observation Levandowski was not named as a defendant by Waymo and this was because Alphabet’s self-driving car unit wanted to pursue arbitration with regards to his case while keeping the legal fight with Uber alive. Therefore, according to Alsup, Waymo must abide by its legal strategy.
“Having made and benefitted from its strategic choice to not name Levandowski as a defendant, Waymo may not renege and suggest that Otto Trucking — or any other defendant — is somehow a stand-in for Levandowski,” wrote Alsup in his ruling.
After the ruling an Uber spokesperson said that Waymo’s case had shrunk even further suggesting that it had a weak case to start with. But Waymo maintained that an inspection it had carried out on digital drawings, photos and devices belonging to Uber had shown that the ride-hailing firm was using the trade secrets of Waymo and had also copied the driverless car firm’s LiDAR designs.