Friday, May 12, 2017

Uber Suffers Legal Setbacks In Europe, U.S.

In the Waymo case Uber's bid to make their arguments in private was turned down by the judge overseeing the action but even worse for Levandowski, hizzoner is using his Federal Judgeship powers.*

From the New York Times:

Judge Denies Uber’s Motion for Private Arbitration
A federal judge denied a motion to move a legal showdown between Uber and Waymo into private arbitration, according to a court document filed Thursday evening, a decision that sets the stage for a public, bare-knuckle trial between the two companies.

It was a setback for Uber, which has been accused of stealing valuable technology from Waymo, the self-driving-automobile unit spun out of Google. Uber had pushed for arbitration, usually a less expensive and faster process — and one that neither takes place in front of a jury nor becomes part of the public record.

At the heart of the suit is Anthony Levandowski, a star engineer and a veteran of self-driving technology who Waymo has claimed stole technology from Google before leaving to form Otto, his own autonomous-vehicle start-up. Waymo has argued that Uber conspired with Mr. Levandowski to use those stolen files in Uber’s self-driving-car designs after Uber purchased Mr. Levandowski’s start-up for $680 million. Uber has denied the accusation.

But the already-trying civil process for Mr. Levandowski — who is not being sued — has now raised the specter of a criminal case. In a separate order, the judge overseeing the dispute suggested that a federal prosecutor review the matter.

In making its case for arbitration, Uber pointed to a previous arbitration clause from Mr. Levandowski’s employment contract with Google....MORE

And from Reuters:

Setback for Uber as European court advised to treat it as transport firm
Uber faces the biggest challenge yet to its European roll-out after the region's top court was advised to rule that the U.S. ride-hailing firm is actually a transport service not an app.
Although the opinion of the Court of Justice of the European Union's (ECJ) Advocate General Maciej Szpunar is non-binding, its judges usually follow such advice and are likely to reach a final ruling in the landmark case in the coming months.

If the ECJ does rule that Uber is a transport service, this is likely to have an impact on the Silicon Valley firm's operations in Estonia, Poland, Czech Republic, and Finland where it still runs UberPOP, using amateur drivers to pick up riders.

The ECJ's final ruling cannot be appealed by Uber, the world’s most valuable venture-backed company, which is also struggling with a wave of executive departures and criticism of its work culture.

The case was brought by Barcelona taxi drivers who argued that UberPOP engaged in unfair competition by using unlicensed drivers and the ECJ's ruling will bind the referring court in Barcelona, which will then hand down the decision.

A spokeswoman for Uber said it would await the ECJ's final ruling, but added it "would not change the way we are regulated in most EU countries as that is already the situation today".
And a ruling against it would "undermine the much needed reform of outdated laws which prevent millions of Europeans from accessing a reliable ride at the tap of a button," she added.

Europe has proved to be one of Uber’s toughest markets, where it already faces restrictions in several large countries and major cities, forcing it to withdraw or curtail services that depend on non-licensed taxi drivers.
As a result, it is unlikely to be required to scale back its services by any ruling, although the opinion appears to block one of the company’s best hopes for EU-wide regulatory relief.

Uber, which allows passengers to summon a ride through an app on their smartphones, expanded into Europe five years ago but has been challenged in the courts because it is not bound by the same strict licensing and safety rules as some competitors.

Szpunar upheld the view that the same rules should be applied to Uber, saying that its drivers "do not pursue an autonomous activity that is independent of the platform. On the contrary, that activity exists solely because of the platform, without which it would have no sense."

And Uber could not be seen as a mere intermediary between drivers and passengers because it controlled economically important aspects of the urban transport service, Szpunar said....MORE
*Here are a couple of our comments from last month:

Waymo vs. Uber: 8 Things I Learned From Anthony Levandowski Taking the 5th
As noted in April 1's "Uber: Judge Says He May Grant Waymo's Request For An Injunction Against Uber's Self Driving Efforts":
From the introduction to yesterday's "In Waymo v. Uber, honing the craft of litigation gamesmanship" (GOOG):
I was going to put something together on Anthony Levandowski's use of the 5th amendment in a civil matter and some of the implications of doing so but didn't get to it. In the meantime here is a look at some high-buck lawyering and tactics of litigators...
I was thinking more along the lines of inferring guilt--in a criminal proceeding an inference from the assertion of the 5th amendment right is strictly verboten and judges so instruct the jury, whereas in most state courts (California being a notable exception) and U.S. federal court,  a civil pleading of the 5th may be assumed to be an admission of guilt.

But yeah, another implication is: if you piss off a tech savvy* federal judge you've got a problem....
A civil pleading of the 5th may be assumed to be an admission of guilt.
And there you go, things just got real for Mr. L.