Uber self-driving case takes a dark turn

The US judge overseeing the self-driving car technology case has said that Uber could face an injunction if a key Uber executive does not testify.

Google’s Waymo sued ride services company Uber last month, alleging that its former executive, Anthony Levandowski, downloaded over 14,000 confidential documents before leaving the company to join Uber.

Waymo is seeking a preliminary injunction from the court, which would temporarily stop Uber from using any of the allegedly stolen intellectual property.

Uber, which has said the allegations are baseless, has not yet responded to Waymo’s complaint in court, and has argued that the trade secrets issue should go to arbitration.

But Uber has fallen foul of District Court Judge William Alsup who told Levandowski’s lawyer that his client was in a mess.

Apparently Levandowski is worried his client could face criminal action and would be asserting his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

Uber said that it would like to put Levandowski on the stand, because “he has a good story to tell”,  but could not force him. But were the case sent to arbitration, Levandowski might choose to testify, because arbitration proceedings are not public.

“I’m sorry that Levandowski has got his — got himself in a fix. That’s what happens, I guess, when you download 14,000 documents and take them, if he did. But I do not hear anybody denying that,” Alsup said.

Uber’s strategy would be to convince the court that Uber was “not using any of these things” Waymo says he stole.

“That would be a legitimate point,” responded Alsup. “Maybe you can convince me of that.”

But Alsup warned Uber of its difficulty in dodging a preliminary injunction in light of Levandowski’s Fifth Amendment privilege.

“If you think for a moment that I’m going to stay my hand because your guy is taking the Fifth Amendment and not issue a preliminary injunction to shut down that … you’re wrong,” Alsup said.