Uber-Waymo Trial Delayed Again Following Allegations of Rogue Conduct at Uber


A federal judge overseeing the high-profile patent theft case between Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo and Uber Technologies Inc.

Last night, before the final pretrial meeting today, Waymo requested that the upcoming trade secrets case set to begin on Monday be delayed.

It also revealed Uber stores the stolen trade-secret information on computers that bypass its servers, and that its employees communicate about it using Wikr, an encrypted messaging application that erases messages after a certain amount of time.

Waymo sued Uber in February, accusing the company of stealing secretive self-driving vehicle technology. But over Thanksgiving weekend, the U.S. Attorney sent additional evidence to Alsup, who had previously referred the case there for possible criminal investigation. Anthony Levandowski, an engineer who left Waymo to spearhead Uber's self-driving auto unit, allegedly stole thousands of confidential documents on his way out the door, but Uber has maintained that those documents never reached its corporate servers. Uber paid $680 million a year ago for a self-driving vehicle startup founded by Levandowski after he left Waymo in January 2016. Levandowski is not a defendant in the civil suit, but he faces a criminal probe stemming from the allegations.

Jacobs was put under oath at a hearing November 28 after the judge was alerted last week by USA prosecutors that he communicated with them in their probe of trade-secret theft at Uber.

Uber has denied the allegations of theft. Russo also denied that part of his jobs was to steal trade secrets.

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The existence of such a unit deals a huge blow to Uber's argument that it never used or even saw the 4,000 documents that Levandowski secretly downloaded while still working at Waymo - a fact that was only discovered months later during a security audit. It also said it wasn't obligated under Micron Technology, Inc. v. Rambus Inc., decided by the Federal Circuit in 2011, to preserve evidence before Waymo sued.

Levandowski has since been fired by Uber.

Softbank, the Japanese firm leading the proposed investment, is proposing to buy the shares at a 30 percent discount from Uber's previous valuation of roughly $68 billion, according to multiple media reports citing unnamed people familiar with the terms. According to his lawyer's letter, he was demoted to an analyst position in retaliation for not cooperating enough with Uber's policy of hiding evidence from discovery. Jacobs said he received instructions on secure communication from Craig Clark, who was recently dismissed from Uber for his role in covering up a data breach.

Arturo Gonzalez, an attorney with Morrison & Foerster who represents the defendants, clarified the defense team didn't know about the Jacobs letter until last week.

Jacobs had drafted a letter with lawyers to Uber's in-house lawyer regarding the ethics of the above practices.

The trial was set to begin next Tuesday in San Francisco. "There's enough there under oath to believe there's a 50-50 chance it will turn out to be something very bad for Uber".