Waymo Hits Another Pothole In Trade Secret Legal Fight Against Uber

Waymo's legal battle with Uber over autonomous driving technology just got a little bit trickier to navigate for the Alphabet-owned company. Adding to a growing list of unfavorable rulings for Waymo, a federal judge in San Francisco threw out key testimony from the company's damages expert, Michael Wagner, making it more difficult to prove allegations that Uber stole trade secrets related to self-driving vehicle technology.

The judge also denied a trade-secret theft claim, along with one of the defendants in the case, ultimately making it more difficult for Waymo to prove that Uber engaged in misconduct independent of whether the engineer stole proprietary information from the company.

Self Driving Car
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons (Steve Jurvetson)

"Waymo's case continues to shrink," Uber said in a statement.

The case revolves around Waymo's claim that Anthony Levandowski, the man in charge of Uber's autonomous division, took 14,000 of the company's files before he went on to form his own autonomous company, called Otto Trucking. Last summer, Uber acquired Otto for $680 million, just seven months after Levandowski left Waymo.

Uber and Waymo are rivals in the development of self-driving car technology, and it's Waymo's claim that Uber benefited from trade secrets and other intellectual property rights allegedly stolen by its former engineer. Waymo is seeking $1.86 billion in damages. However, Waymo seems to be facing an increasingly steep uphill battle.

"Having made and benefited from its strategic choice to not name Levandowski as a defendant, Waymo may not renege and suggest that Otto Trucking—or any other defendant— is somehow a stand-in for Levandowski, or that misappropriation by Levandowski is somehow automatically transmogrified into misappropriation by Otto Trucking," US District Judge William Alsup wrote in his ruling.

Be that as it may, Waymo is undeterred in its legal battle and says it looks forward to presenting "evidence on multiple trade secrets at trial." Waymo also points out that Alsup allowed for the possibility that Otto, now owned by Uber, may have to abide by future court orders blocking the use of its technology.

The case set to go to trial in December.

Thumbnail Image Source: Wikimedia Commons (Grendelkhan)