Uber will focus its defense against a lawsuit from self-driving car tech competitor Waymo on showing that it instructed a former Waymo employee, whose startup it acquired last year, not to bring any proprietary files into the company, according to new court documents. Uber will also lay out evidence that it had no indication that the employee, Anthony Levandowski, had downloaded the files for the purpose of using Waymo's trade secrets.

Why it matters: From the initial filing of Waymo's lawsuit, Uber has been fighting the narrative that it secretly plotted with Levandowski to steal Waymo's trade secrets. Uber's legal defense largely hinges on disproving this.

There is one incident, which Uber first recounted last week and explains further in Wednesday's court filings, that reveals its top executives did find out early on that Levandowski was in possession of Waymo files. According to Uber, Levandowski was immediately told not to bring any of the materials into Uber, and later told the company he had destroyed the discs. Uber also says it was not aware that Levandowski had downloaded the files for any improper use, and might have done so because he wasn't sure that Waymo would pay him a $120 million bonus he was owed (and did eventually receive).

One remaining question mark in the upcoming trial is whether a due diligence report prepared as part of Uber's acquisition of Levandowski's startup will be made available. Despite Levandowski's attempt to keep the report out, both the presiding judge and a magistrate judge have ruled that it can't be kept confidential. Levandowski is appealing that decision. The document is believed to contain evidence that could incriminate Levandowski, though it wouldn't be problematic for Uber's defense, according to a source.

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Over 73 million people watched the first debate on TV

Data: Nielsen; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

More than 73.1 million people watched the first presidential debate on television on Tuesday night, according to Nielsen ratings.

Why it matters: While that's a sizable audience for any American TV program, it's down more than 13% from the record number of TV viewers who tuned in for the first debate of the 2016 election. The chaotic nature of the debate and the overall uncertainty around this year's election may have pushed some viewers away.

Senate passes bill funding government through December

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Senate on Tuesday passed legislation to fund the federal government through Dec. 11, by a vote of 84-10.

Where it stands: The legislation will avert a government shutdown before funding expires Wednesday night and before the Nov. 3 election. The House passed the same measure last week by a vote of 359-57 after House Democrats and the Trump administration agreed on the resolution.

  • Both sides agreed early in negotiations that the bill should be a "clean" continuing resolution — meaning each party would only make small changes to existing funding levels so the measure would pass through both chambers quickly, Axios' Alayna Treene reported last week. The bill now goes to President Trump for his signature.
Bryan Walsh, author of Future
1 hour ago - Technology

The age of engineering life begins

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Synthetic biology startups raised some $3 billion through the first half of 2020, up from $1.9 billion for all of 2019, as the field brings the science of engineering to the art of life.

The big picture: Synthetic biologists are gradually learning how to program the code of life the way that computer experts have learned to program machines. If they can succeed — and if the public accepts their work — synthetic biology stands to fundamentally transform how we live.

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