Alphabet’s Waymo’s case against Uber is unprecedented

“I’ve never seen a record this strong in 42 years,” – U.S. District Judge William Alsup on Waymo’s case against Uber Technologies.

In the high-profile case which is likely to have a major bearing on Uber Technologies, a U.S. judge has frowned on Uber Technologies’ behaviour and has warned that it could face a court injunction which will bar a key Uber executive from working on its self-driving car project.

The case related to a complaint of theft filed by Alphabet Inc’s Waymo unit.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup said the evidence amassed by Waymo to bolster its case of its data being stolen was extraordinary.

“I’ve never seen a record this strong in 42 years,” said Alsup.

A hearing on Waymo’s request for an injunction on Uber’s self-driving program is scheduled for May.

Earlier this year Alphabet’s Waymo sued Uber claiming that Anthony Levandowski, a former Waymo executive, had downloaded more than 14,000 confidential documents before leaving the company to join Uber.

In its claim, Waymo said Uber has benefited from those documents. It has now sued for damages and is trying to stop Uber from using the technology Levandowski allegedly stole.

Levandowski is one of the most experienced engineers in Silicon Valley on the subject of self-driving vehicles. The loss of his expertise would be a significant blow to Uber, which has bet its future on autonomous vehicles.

On Wednesday, Arturo Gonzalez, Uber’s lawyer told the court that the company has been working hard to find the evidence that Waymo’s documents were indeed in Uber’s possession, however he could not find anything material.

Waymo’s attorneys countered the argument stating, Uber did not search hard enough.

Gonzalez went on to add, Waymo had waited for several months after realising that the documents were downloaded before it filed its lawsuit over them. He tried to point out that the time lag before requesting the documents and the filing of the case showed that the materials weren’t crucial enough to merit an injunction in the case.

District Judge William Alsup ordered Uber to conduct a broader search, and said that the weight of Waymo’s evidence “could lead to a preliminary injunction that Levandowski cannot work on this project any more until this case is over.”

He emphasized that he had not yet decided how he would rule on the case.

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