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Appeals court says Uber can not move Waymo court fight to arbitration

14 September 2017

Uber has lost a pair of appeals at the center of its ongoing trade secrets case with the Alphabet-owned Waymo Inc.

The Federal Circuit on Wednesday ruled Alphabet Inc.'s self-driving vehicle unit Waymo LLC can see Stroz Friedberg LLC's confidential Uber report in Waymo's trade secret suit against the ride-hailing giant, rejecting an Uber executive's arguments that disclosures in the report are protected and could incriminate him.

The case stems from a lawsuit filed in February by Waymo, formerly known as the Google self-driving auto unit, which claimed former manager Levandowski took a trove of technical data with him when he left to launch a competing venture that went on to become Otto and was later acquired by Uber.

A U.S. federal appeals court upheld a lower court decision that an arbitration contract with a former Waymo employee at the heart of the case did not apply to the legal battle between Uber and the self-driving auto unit of Google-parent Alphabet.

The case is set to go to trial October 10.

The document at the heart of the fight is a due diligence report that Uber commissioned when it acqui-hired former Googler Anthony Levandowski and the entire self-driving truck startup he founded after suddenly resigning from Google.

In a second potentially hazardous legal turn for the smartphone-summoned ride service, appellate judges also backed a ruling Uber had to turn over a potentially damning internal report to Waymo to be considered as possible evidence.

Uber appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which affirmed the lower court's ruling Wednesday. "While Waymo has obtained over 238,000 pages of production documents from Uber and conducted a dozen inspections over 61 hours of our facilities, source code, documents, and engineers' computers, there's still no evidence that any files have come to Uber, let alone that they're being used". But Waymo countered that because the lawsuit names Uber as a defendant, not Levandowski, it's not subject to that arbitration agreement.

Waymo has sought the document for months, saying it could shed light on what Uber executives knew of Levandowski's actions.

And in a statement from Uber, the company said it will be handing over the due diligence report today.

Appeals court says Uber can not move Waymo court fight to arbitration