Waymo tries to tap the brakes on court showdown with Uber

Those of us anxiously waiting to tune into the Silicon Valley trial of the year — Waymo v. Uber — may have to wait a bit longer.

With just three weeks to go until the epic showdown is set to begin, Waymo is asking for more time.

Why? Waymo, Google’s self-driving car spin-off, says it needs the extra time to go through a mountain of documents rival Uber just dumped in its lap.

That could be disappointing news for court-watchers and techies who are already getting their popcorn ready, as if the high-profile trial were the new season of “Game of Thrones.” After all, the court drama promises to bring major fireworks, and big names including ousted Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, Alphabet CEO Larry Page and Google co-founder Sergey Brin could take the stand.

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Last week a panel of federal appellate judges ruled Uber must turn over a report and thousands of related documents that the ride-hailing company for months had been trying to keep under wraps. That report, known as the “Stroz report,” is the due-diligence report Uber had commissioned before it bought self-driving trucking startup Otto — and it could play a key role in the case, where Waymo claims former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski took 14,000 confidential Google documents before leaving to start Otto. Waymo claims that when Uber bought Otto, it got its hands on and started to use those Waymo trade secrets.

Waymo hopes the Stroz report contains at least some of those 14,000 pilfered files, or at least admissions that Levandowski took them. But in order to find out, Waymo’s lawyers have to comb through a deluge of new evidence. On Saturday, Waymo’s lawyers asked U.S. District Judge William Alsup, who is presiding over the case in San Francisco, to push back the Oct. 10 trial date.

“It’s now clear why Uber had fought so hard to hide these materials from Waymo and the Court,” Waymo’s lawyers wrote. “In addition to the Stroz Report, thousands of new documents and hundreds of previously unexamined devices are now being turned over to Waymo, adding to the direct evidence we’ve already found of trade secret misappropriation. They go to the heart of our case and in order to accommodate new depositions, expert reports and briefings, we’ve asked for additional time before trial.”

Uber is not having it. The San Francisco-based ride-hailing company on Monday morning filed a motion opposing Waymo’s request. By requesting a delay, Waymo is asking for a “do-over,” and seeking to unfairly shift strategy at the last-minute, Uber’s lawyers wrote.

“After claiming for months that it has irrefutable evidence of patent infringement and trade secret theft by Uber, Waymo’s case has come to a screeching halt,” Uber’s lawyers wrote. “All four patent claims have been dismissed. Its trade secrets claim has been narrowed to a handful of minor features in one LiDAR component. And the heart of Waymo’s case—that Anthony Levandowski supposedly sat at a computer and selected 14,000 important proprietary files to be downloaded—has collapsed like a house of cards.”

Uber declined to comment beyond the court filing.

On Monday morning, Alsup said the court would hear Waymo’s motion on Wednesday.

“While Waymo’s motion to continue will be given complete and fair consideration, our trial date has long been set for October 10,” Alsup wrote, “and both sides should diligently continue to prepare for trial on that date.”

Photo: A self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivan from Google spin-off Waymo. (Courtesy of Waymo)


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