Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Double Hit To Uber: Judge Alsup Denies Uber’s Request for Stay, Gives Waymo Fatherly Advice; Magistrate Judge Corley Approves Waymo Request to Peek at Dirty Laundry

The latter may prove to be the more important ruling so first up Judge Alsup at TechCrunch:

Judge denies Uber’s request for stay in Waymo suit
The judge in the lawsuit between Uber and Waymo, the self-driving car subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet, denied Uber’s request for a stay pending its appeal for arbitration. That means the case is still on track to go to trial in early October, as previously planned.

In court today, District Judge William Alsup of the Northern District of California re-affirmed the court date, put a limit on new discovery requests and urged both parties in the case to figure out their differences on that front.

Finally, Alsup defended his earlier order for Uber to do everything in its power to get Anthony Levandowski, the engineer at the center of the case, to comply with discovery requests and to return any confidential material he may have taken from Waymo before leaving the company.
Waymo alleges Levandowski stole trade secrets related to its autonomous driving technology, which were later used in the creation of his own self-driving truck startup Otto. Because Uber acquired Otto for nearly $700 million last summer, the implication is that those trade secrets found their way into Uber’s own autonomous driving unit.

Uber had previously argued — unsuccessfully — that the lawsuit should head to arbitration due to a clause in Levandowski’s employment contract. It later appealed that decision and was seeking a stay in the case while the appeals process was underway. Alsup’s ruling this morning effectively denied a pause in the proceedings while waiting for an appeals court to hear the case, and also re-affirmed an October 2 court date for the trial to get underway.

With less than four months between now and the scheduled proceedings, Alsup also urged both parties to limit the scope of the suit, put a limit on discovery requests and move forward in complying with existing requests.

Speaking to the counsel for Waymo, Alsup also suggested the company severely curtail — or drop entirely — the patent claims it’s making as part of the case.

“I think you’re going to lose on all these patent claims unless you pull a rabbit out of a hat,” Alsup said. “You’re the one who wants the trial date… You’re the one who should streamline this.”...MORE
And from Bloomberg: 

Waymo Gets Uber Report Allegedly Crafted in Criminal Huddle
Uber Technologies Inc. lost a battle to prevent Waymo from seeing an internal report the Alphabet Inc. unit is betting will show that its former engineer colluded with the ride-hailing giant to steal driverless technology.

The ruling by U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley in San Francisco may prove pivotal in a trade-secrets case headed to trial that could influence who wins the race to market self-driving cars. David A. Perlson, an attorney for Waymo, confirmed the ruling in a court hearing Wednesday.

Since Waymo sued in February, Uber and engineer Anthony Levandowski resisted turning over a due diligence report evaluating the risks associated with Uber’s acquisition of Otto LLC, the company Levandowski formed days after he quit Waymo. They argued it can’t be disclosed because it involves confidential communications between attorneys and clients.

Waymo claims that in 2015, Levandowski and Uber hatched a plan for him to steal more than 14,000 proprietary files, including the designs for lidar technology that helps driverless cars see their surroundings. Levandowski left Waymo in January 2016. Uber bought Otto in August for $680 million.

Uber has denied Waymo’s trade-secret theft allegations and says its automation technology has been developed without significant input from Levandowski. The company fired Levandowski last month after a judge said the engineer should be threatened with termination for refusing to turn over evidence. Levandowski, who isn’t a defendant in the lawsuit, has declined to testify in the case, asserting his constitutional right against self-incrimination.

The due diligence report “likely contains information that is responsive to many of the questions Mr. Levandowski refused to answer," Waymo argued in a court filing. "Indeed, the withheld report may be the only source of much of this information."

Corley reviewed the report privately and told lawyers at a May 25 hearing that it’s important to the case. Waymo argued that because the report was produced by a cyber-security firm and not by lawyers, attorney confidentiality doesn’t apply. The company also contended the document doesn’t qualify for privacy protection because it may reveal fraudulent or criminal wrongdoing.

“You can’t claim a privilege over huddling together about what to do with stolen documents,” Waymo’s attorney, Charles Verhoeven, argued at the hearing. “There is very clear evidence that stolen documents were known about and were retained and continued to be held. And that in and of itself is a crime.”...MORE