Judge Halts Waymo-Uber Showdown Amid Allegations of Uber Cover-up

Judge Halts Waymo-Uber Showdown Amid Allegations of Uber Cover-up

Prosecutors had informed U.S. District Judge William Alsup that they were in contact with him during their own criminal investigation into Uber's alleged thefts.

Waymo on Tuesday secured the delay of a trial against Uber over driverless auto technology that had been scheduled to start on December 4. The 37-page letter, obtained by the Justice Department during an investigation into possible corporate espionage by Uber and sent to Alsup on November 22, revealed Uber had set up a secret intelligence team to steal trade secrets from Waymo and unnamed competitors overseas. In October, he chided Uber layers for disclosing thousands of emails to Waymo just before the trial had been set to begin.

The investigation hadn't been publicly known until Tuesday, when it surfaced in a court hearing that was supposed to set the stage for a trial pitting Uber against Waymo, a self-driving vehicle pioneer that started within Google eight years ago. "I can't trust anything you say because it has been proven wrong so many times", Alsup told Uber attorney Arturo Gonzalez. Padilla, the in-house Uber attorney who received the Jacobs letter, is set to testify about it on Wednesday. Uber fired Jacobs in April.

Jacobs took the stand to testify about the letter's statement that Uber's Marketplace Analytics "exists expressly for the goal of acquiring trade secrets, code-based & competitive intelligence", as Waymo lawyer Charles Verhoeven said, quoting from the letter.

Jacobs testified that the surveillance team used "anonymous servers" separate from the "main part of Uber".

They also asked about training that the unit had been given to evade discovery and investigation including hiding communications, copying lawyers on letters in order to gain legal privilege, encryption, and using email only as a "last resort".

Uber denied using any of Waymo's trade secrets. The judge has repeatedly criticized Uber in strong terms for withholding information and he had previously suspected possible criminal behavior.

"We're going to have to put the trial off", Alsup said. "And there is a 50-50 chance that this will turn out to be a dry hole". "None of the testimony (Tuesday) changes the merits of the case", Uber said.

In light of the new evidence and allegations that Uber lawyers had been withholding Jacobs's letter, the judge indefinitely delayed the trial, which was set to begin on December 4.

Waymo claims that the letter explains why the 14,000 documents stolen by Anthony Levandowski did not appear on Uber's servers. After Levandowski left Google in 2016 (before parent company Alphabet spun Waymo into its own company), he launched the autonomous truck company Otto and sold it to Uber.

Uber identified employees at rival companies it believed it could flip in pursuit of competitors' secrets.

Softbank, the Japanese firm leading the proposed investment, is proposing to buy the shares at a 30 percent discount from Uber's previous valuation of roughly $68 billion, according to multiple media reports citing unnamed people familiar with the terms.

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