Judge refers theft allegations against Uber to US attorney

by Edgar Hayes May 13, 2017, 9:59
Judge refers theft allegations against Uber to US attorney

"The court takes no position on whether a prosecution is or is not warranted", he wrote in his order.

"This is bad news for Uber", said Timothy Heaphy, a former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, who now chairs a white collar defense and internal investigations practice at the law firm Hunton & Williams.

Uber can't seem to catch a break. According to Uber, those arbitration agreements should have compelled Waymo to arbitrate its trade secrets case against Uber - but Waymo deliberately omitted naming Levandowski as a defendant in the suit in order to keep the case in federal court. The probe, combined with other legal and image woes, will reduce Uber's value and in the worst case could threaten the San Francisco company's existence if investors leave, criminal charges bring huge fines and legal action stalls autonomous auto research, the experts say. The document is sealed so it's unclear to what extent Uber will be affected. Alphabet's driverless-car unit, Waymo, and attorneys for Mr. Levandowski didn't respond to requests for comment.

Waymo, Google's self-driving auto spinoff, has accused Uber of stealing its design for Lidar sensors used on autonomous vehicles, claiming Uber then incorporated it into its own Lidar design. Uber doesn't deny that the downloads occurred, and Levandowski has asserted his 5th Amendment rather than answer questions. "He's a target", said Heaphy, the former United States attorney.

We don't know what the judge's reasoning for possible criminal prosecution is. If so, some Uber executives could be looking at jail time. Among the documents were trade secrets and patents, including Waymo's proprietary LIDAR system, the company claims.

In the complaint filed in February, Waymo accused Levandowski of downloading 14,000 files to a memory card while he was heading its driverless vehicle project.

In a statement, Waymo said Uber's bid to have the civil case heard in private by an arbitrator, not a jury, was a "desperate" attempt to avoid the court's jurisdiction.

The lawsuit filed by Google spin-off Waymo mainly accuses Levandowski, a veteran of self-driving technology, of stealing trade secrets from Google.

"It is unfortunate that Waymo will be permitted to avoid abiding by the arbitration promise it requires its employees to make", a spokesperson from Uber said. From lawsuits to allegations of sexual harassment to a federal investigation into claims that it has used a fake version of its app to thwart authorities, Uber has had a rough year. I'm very glad I'm not Anthony Levandowski.

The judge highlighted that in this case, Waymo was not bound by arbitration. "Nobody's hiding at Uber".

Arbitration would have benefited Uber primarily by keeping the case out of the public spotlight and also by limiting the scope of information sharing, or discovery.

"The relationship itself isn't proof he aided and abetted a crime", Heaphy said.

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