Uber has suffered two key losses in its high-stakes trade-theft battle with Waymo, Google's self-driving car unit.
First, Uber lost its battle to prevent Waymo from seeing an internal report. This, Waymo bets, will show that its former engineer, Anthony Levandowski, conspired with Uber to steal Waymo's autonomous driving technology.
Uber must hand over the due diligence report related to its $680 million acquisition of Otto, a company Levandowski started after leaving Google's self-driving unit. Uber has so far maintained to keep that report invisible, claiming attorney-client privilege.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley's ruling in a San Francisco court is an arguably pivotal inflection point between Uber and Waymo's trade-secrets case headed to trial that could influence the direction of driverless technology and that industry going forward.
Arbitration Request Still Shot Down
U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup also shot down Uber's motion to put the litigation on hold while the company appeals his decision prohibiting the case from moving into arbitration. Alsup told Uber's lawyers that Waymo has a right to get to trial on Oct. 2 and that the ride-hailing service is "doing everything you can to throw roadblocks in their way," according to reports.
Alsup also put a new limit on discovery requests and urged both Uber and Waymo to settle their differences in that front, seeing as the scheduled proceedings are to occur in less than four months.
Finally, Alsup also defended his earlier order for Uber to push Levandowski to comply with discovery requests and to return confidential material he may have stolen from Waymo before leaving the company.
Following a court order, Uber had threatened to fire Levandowski if he didn't comply with the investigation and return allegedly stolen materials to his former employer. When he failed to comply, Uber duly broke up with its star engineer late last month.
Levandowski's counsel argued that such orders were akin to forcing a private citizen to choose between his Fifth Amendment rights and his job. But Alsup said that Uber found its own reasons to fire Levandowski.
Alsup also noted the impact of people using their Fifth Amendment rights when involved in an internal investigation and still remaining employed in a private company party to that investigation.
As a result, Alsup has maintained that his previous order still stands.
"I'm not taking back a single word," he said.
Waymo vs Uber: A Refresher
Waymo sued Uber back in February, claiming Levandowski stole more than 14,000 files from Google during his stint at the company's self-driving unit.
Because Levandowski left Google, founded Otto, and then sold his company to Uber, Waymo alleges that Uber is using said stolen files to develop its own autonomous driving technology. Uber has so far denied all claims, stating that extensive searches of its internal systems haven't turned up any of the alleged files.
Waymo has been pushing to see Uber's diligence report on the Otto purchase. In large part, that report might show what Uber knew and when at the time of acquiring Levandowski's autonomous technology startup.
Alsup asked Uber's lawyers if they intend to appeal the decision on the due diligence report. One of them stated that Uber might decide on that matter on June 8, according to Reuters.