The first blow against Uber was Judge William Alsup's decision to deny Uber's request that the case enter into arbitration - thereby keeping the case out of the public eye.
California-based ride-sharing service Uber acquired commercial transport-focused tech startup Otto late a year ago as the company pressed ahead with its pursuit of self-driving technology. Otto was later acquired by Uber.
The Alphabet unit asked Alsup to issue an injunction preventing Uber from using Waymo's trade secrets, and Levandowski from working on Lidar. A forensic security expert at Google earlier testified that a download of the materials was easily traceable to Levandowski's personal laptop shortly before he left the company to go work for Uber.
"We welcome the court's decision today, and we look forward to holding Uber responsible in court for its misconduct", the Alphabet-owned company announced in a statement.
If the ruling and Alsup's comments in the arbitration ruling are any indication, Alsup's pending decision on a preliminary injunction might not be favorable to Uber. Among the documents were trade secrets and patents, including Waymo's proprietary LIDAR system, the company claims.
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The self-driving vehicle company, in a lawsuit filed in February at the US District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco Division, claimed that these files contained Waymo's LiDAR (a laser-based scanning and mapping technology) circuit board designs. And it insists that same info helped Uber fast-track its driverless auto efforts, avoiding years of costly research and development.
Self-driving vehicle firm Waymo sued Uber over the alleged theft of more than 14,000 confidential files by former Waymo employee Anthony Levandowski before he left the company.
Waymo's lawyer pointed out that Levandowski isn't a defendant in the case.
Both Uber and Levandowski have impeded Waymo's efforts to ascertain whether the 14,000 stolen files were ever actually used in Uber's self-driving auto project, a key to determining culpability.
Representatives for Uber and Waymo did not have immediate comment. "Waymo's trade secret and unfair competition claims must be referred to arbitration because they arise out of, relate to, and result from Levandowski's employment", Uber had submitted in a filing. "I've never seen a record this strong in 42 years", wrote Alsup. It moved to bar Uber from using its technology two weeks later, a request Uber said in a court filing "would impede Uber's efforts to remain a viable business" if Alsup grants it.
The case is Waymo LLC v. Uber Technologies Inc., 17-00939, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).