| SAN FRANCISCO
SAN FRANCISCO A U.S. judge on Thursday rejected Uber’s [UBER.UL] bid to send its high-profile trade secret dispute with Alphabet’s (GOOGL.O) self-driving Waymo unit to a private legal forum, a setback for the ride services company.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco also partially granted Waymo’s bid for an injunction against Uber over its self driving car program. However, Alsup filed his injunction opinion temporarily under seal, meaning the scope and details of the injunction could not immediately be learned.
The acrimonious trade secrets battle between Silicon Valley’s two tech rivals has serious strategic and financial consequences in the nascent field of autonomous technology. The outcome could determine the future of Uber’s self-driving car program and the strength of Waymo’s toehold in the competitive sector.
Representatives for Uber and Waymo did not have immediate comment.
The case hinges on over 14,000 confidential files that Waymo, formerly Google’s self-driving car program, alleges were stolen by former Waymo employee Anthony Levandowski before leaving the company. Levandowski subsequently co-founded self-driving truck start-up Otto that was acquired months later by Uber.
Waymo claimed that information in the files made their way into Uber’s Lidar system, a key sensor technology that uses light pulses to “see” the environment. Waymo alleged the documents gave Uber a leg up, allowing it to fast-track its own technology and sparing it years of costly research.
It asked Alsup to issue an injunction preventing Uber from using Waymo’s trade secrets, and Levandowski from working on Lidar.
Uber has never denied that Levandowski took Waymo’s documents, but insists they never made their way to Uber, nor into its own designs.
Uber had argued that an arbitrator, not a jury, should decide the merits of Waymo’s February lawsuit alleging that a key engineer had stolen trade secrets from Waymo and brought them to Uber. Unlike court proceedings, which are largely conducted in public, arbitrations take place behind closed doors.
(Reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Sandra Maler and Stephen Coates)