When Alphabet’s trade-secret lawsuit against Uber goes to trial this October, lawyers for the company’s self-driving arm Waymo will be allowed to advise the jury of Uber’s behavior during the hearing, US District Judge William Alsup ruled on Thursday.
During a hearing Wednesday, Alsup said he was inclined to allow Waymo to tell the jury that Uber's lawyers had misled the court regarding their possession of stolen documents.
Waymo's lawyers argued at the hearing that the jury should know that the law firm representing Uber, Morrison Foerster, concealed the fact that it possessed stolen Google files, as well as the fact that the former Google engineer at the heart of the lawsuit, Anthony Levandowski, destroyed some of those files after being hired by Uber.
Judge Alsup, who on Wednesday threatened to put Uber's lead counsel Arturo González on the stand during the trial, ruled in Waymo's favor on Thursday.
The order says Waymo will be able to advise the court based on what was discussed at the hearing. "I am inclined to tell the jury this scenario, that Uber was ordered to come clean and did not come clean,” Alsup said on Thursday. Waymo's next step will be to propose wording for its jury instructions, which Alsup will have an opportunity to review before approving.
González strenuously denied that his firm concealed any stolen information from Google, saying in court, "There will never be a day, never, no matter what the Federal Circuit rules, that MoFo was hiding, or for that matter, Uber was hiding, 14,000 documents.”
Uber declined to comment on this story.
In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for Waymo said that "Uber and its attorneys and agents have refused to produce key evidence, continued to harbor Waymo’s stolen files, and obstructed discovery at every turn."
"We welcome Alsup's decision to allow Waymo to propose instructions to the jury regarding Uber's misconduct and we look forward to trial," the statement says.
Waymo's lawsuit alleges that Uber illegally acquired trade secrets from Waymo when it hired Levandowski, a former Waymo engineer, through the acquisition of his self-driving truck startup, Otto Trucking. The suit, filed back in February, says Uber is actively using Waymo's trade secrets in its technology. Since then, Judge Alsup has said repeatedly that Waymo's case against Uber is a strong one. Thursday's ruling is yet another reason for Waymo to feel confident in this fight.
Meanwhile, Uber's string of missteps and crises in 2017 continues. Ex-CEO and founder Travis Kalanick is locked in a public and contentious legal battle with early investors. Benchmark Capital is suing him for fraud and breach of conduct, saying he failed to handle an internal crisis over allegations of sexual harassment inside the company, concealed facts in his acquisition of Otto Trucking that led to Waymo's lawsuit, and is meddling in the selection of a new CEO.
Caroline O'Donovan is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco.
Contact Caroline O'Donovan at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.