Judge orders Uber not to use technology taken from Waymo

16 May, 2017, 10:22 | Author: Valerie Burke
  • Maya Jackson a Lyft driver from Sacramento navigates a Lyft app on a smartphone during

In a court ruling made public on Monday, a US judge in San Francisco granted a partial injunction against Uber ordering the company to promptly return any files downloaded by a former Waymo engineer before that engineer left to work for Uber. "We welcome the order to prohibit Uber's use of stolen documents containing trade secrets developed by Waymo through years of research, and to formally bar Mr. Levandowski from working on the technology", a Waymo spokesperson told CNBC.

"Waymo has made a strong showing that Levandowski absconded with over 14,000 files from Waymo, evidently to have them available to consult on behalf of Otto and Uber", Judge Alsup wrote in his order on Monday.

The judge ordered that Uber must use "the full extent of their corporate, employment, contractual and other authority" to compel Levandowski to return the documents by May 31 at noon. Uber's self-driving auto program is now in crisis as it battles a lawsuit from rival Waymo over allegations of stolen technology.

Meanwhile, Judge Alsup, who was presiding over the case, has ruled that whether or not Uber wantonly deployed the documents Levandowski allegedly stole from Waymo - the fact remains that information from Waymo's tech had leaked into Uber's.

Uber said in a statement it's pleased with the court's ruling allowing it to continue building its autonomous-driving program, including its innovation around lidar.

"Competition should be fueled by innovation in the labs and on the roads, not through unlawful actions", a Waymo spokesperson said in a statement.

Alsup's ruling follows his decision last week to refuse Uber's request to send the case to arbitration.

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Waymo argues that Uber is now profiting from stolen sensor technology and, in the short term, has asked a judge to put a hold on Uber's research until the matter can be definitively settled.

Waymo's lawsuit contends that Levandowski in December 2015 downloaded more than 14,000 proprietary files from a highly confidential design server to a laptop and took the data with him to the startup.

Alsup last week referred the case to the Justice Department "for investigation of possible theft of trade secrets". Lyft is trying to gain an edge and outmuscle Uber to become the largest USA ride-hailing provider.

"The Waymo lawyers are now in a super-position to prove their case", said Chris Broderick, an attorney focusing on trade secrets issues with Manatt, Phelps, and Phillips LLP.

Though it now feels as if every automaker, auto parts supplier, ride-sharing service provider and his algorithm-writing cousin has an autonomous driving strategy in place, Alphabet/Google's (GOOGL) Waymo unit and Tesla Motors (TSLA) still seem to be ahead of the pack when it comes to actually bringing a vehicle that can drive itself to market. Uber is now not in a favorable position as far as its ongoing legal confrontation with Waymo is concerned.

Most major automakers and several other technology firms have been stepping up efforts on autonomous driving in recent years, contending these systems will eliminate the vast majority of road accidents. Levandowski already had recused himself from the development prior to Monday's ruling, the Verge reported.

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