Uber threatens to fire self-driving car engineer in trade secrets case

Cesar Mills
May 19, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO Uber will appeal a judge's order rejecting its attempt to arbitrate a high profile trade secrets lawsuit against Alphabet's self-driving Waymo unit, according to a court filing on Thursday.

Waymo, the self-driving vehicle unit of Alphabet Inc., claims that Levandowski - a former Google executive - conspired with Uber to steal trade secrets when he switched companies. That employee, Anthony Levandowski, is now required to be kept away from any of Uber's self-driving auto work involving a Lidar system.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup ruled last week that Mr. Levandowski's use of the Fifth Amendment doesn't bar Uber from firing him, and that the company shouldn't "pull any punches" in compelling him to surface more information around the allegedly stolen files.

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Levandowski left Waymo in January 2016 and started Otto, a self-driving truck startup that Uber bought for $680 million (524.9 million pounds) in August. An Uber spokesman declined to comment. "[Waymo's] decision to bring separate claims against defendants in court was not only reasonable but also the only course available, since Waymo had no arbitration agreement with defendants".

Mr. Levandowski, a former Alphabet engineer who joined Uber previous year to run its driverless-car program, has repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment rights in the case, declining to comment and refusing to turn over documents. In his injunction order, Alsup said "few" of Waymo's alleged trade secrets have been traced to Uber's self-driving auto technology, and that Waymo's patent claims against Uber have proved meritless.

Other reports by GizPress

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