Uber Vs. Waymo is shaping up to be one of the most interesting lawsuits of the year. After all, both the companies are working to create self-driving vehicles, both are relatively new and both, have the backing of Alphabet in one form or the other. While Uber has received investments from Google Ventures, Waymo is a subsidiary of Alphabet. As such, there is some conflict of interest here as a Waymo victory could cause financial losses to GV. Meanwhile, the case has taken a new turn with Otto Co-founder Anthony Levandowski asserting his fifth amendment rights.
Levandowski is a pretty important factor in the case. According to Waymo, it was Levandowski and a couple of buddies that sneaked away thousands of files from Waymo. These files contained intimate details about Waymo’s self-driving projects, particularly about its LiDAR technology that allows vehicles to recognize and avoid obstacles. Waymo alleges that Levandowski used these files for his own means and purposes and that since the Otto acquisition, Uber has been using the knowledge that is the property of Waymo, to make gains in the self-driving niche. Uber has of course denied all these claims as baseless.
Meanwhile, a lawyer for Levandowski has told the court that the engineer would deploy his Fifth Amendment rights because there was the potential for criminal action, which could in turn lead to self-incrimination. The fifth amendment in case you are wondering, is this:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
This mechanism allows witnesses and defendants to withhold information if there was a danger of self-incrimination. That Levandowski is relying on it suggests that there is at least something that the Otto Co-founder is afraid of getting mixed up in.
A document production is slated for today in the courts, However, Uber claims that it won’t be able to produce documents stolen by Levandowski because of the fact that it possesses no such documents. So basically, it is washing its hands off the whole affair and is challenging Waymo to prove that its wrong. Levandowski on the other hand, is playing safe on the matter. As per one of his lawyers:
We’re broadly asserting Mr. Levandowski’s Fifth Amendment rights as to any documents he may possess and control that are of relevance to this action.
Uber has sought to distance itself from Lavandowski and his mess with his ex-employers. For instance, the company’s defense has been focusing on the fat that Waymo should have approached its ex-employee with an arbitration first rather than going ahead with a lawsuit. it was earlier revealed that arbitration did happen but even that dealt with issues of employee poaching and the theft of trade secrets failed to find a mention.
Meanwhile, Judge William Alsup who is presiding over the case, has already warned both the parties.
To Waymo,, he said:
Some of the things in your motion are bogus. You’ve got things in there like lists of suppliers as trade secrets. Come on. It undermines the whole thing.
He also threatened Uber with an injunction.
There are some things in that motion that are very serious. They are genuine trade secrets. And if you don’t come in with a denial, you’re probably looking at a preliminary injunction.
Meanwhile, Uber’s first public response is slated for the 7th of April. Let’s see how the company fends off the allegations levied against it and if it decides to include Anthony Levandowski in its defense.