Uber saw a judge last week request federal prosecutors investigate the company to see if Uber Technologies and an executive worked together to steal technology from Alphabet’s Google’s self-driving car business before the executive joined Uber.
According to a report in The Washington Post, the investigation ordered by the judge in the case against Uber lodged by Google’s self-driving unit, which is now known as Waymo, creates more issues for the ride hailing company.
“It is very rare for a judge to refer a matter over to the U.S. attorney and signals the judge’s displeasure with Uber in the trade secrets civil lawsuit,” said Carl Tobias Williams, chair in law at the University of Richmond School of Law, in the report. He noted that the investigation serves to compound the other legal problems for Uber. U.S. District Judge William Alsup, who ordered the inquiry, wrote in a brief that the court took “no position on whether prosecution is warranted, a decision entirely up to the United States Attorney.”
The judge also denied Uber’s request for the case to go to arbitration, paving the way for a public trial, noted the report. The court also blocked the part of Uber’s self-driving program that uses the technology that Waymo said Uber stole was blocked from being used.
“It is unfortunate that Waymo will be permitted to avoid abiding by the arbitration promise it requires its employees to make,” Uber said in a statement Friday (May 12) to the Post. “We remain confident in our case and welcome the chance to talk about our independently developed technology in any forum.”
In an email statement to the paper, Waymo said, “This was a desperate bid by Uber to avoid the court’s jurisdiction. We welcome the court’s decision today, and we look forward to holding Uber responsible in court for its misconduct.”
According to the lawsuit lodged by Waymo, Uber executive Anthony Levandowski allegedly downloaded thousands of documents to his personal computer before leaving Google. Waymo claims that Uber colluded with Levandowski to steal lidar technology, a laser that helps software gauge the proximity of objects for self-driving cars, noted the report.