May 12, 2017

Uber's legal troubles just got a whole lot worse

A federal judge has denied Uber's request to move to arbitration a trade secrets theft lawsuit filed by Waymo, Alphabet's self-driving car unit. He also is referring the theft claims to the U.S. Attorney's office, which may or may not investigate.

What it means: With the request denied, Uber and Waymo's battle over allegedly stolen self-driving car technology will continue to play out in public. The judge's ruling is a blow to Uber, which had sought to avoid a PR nightmare of a trial, in which all parties will be required to reveal information about their operations, business, and technology.

But the U.S. attorney referral could be an even bigger deal, as it could theoretically expand Uber's troubles from civil to criminal.

Details: The ride-hailing company had argued that because the former Waymo employee at the center of the case had an arbitration clause in his employment contract, it should move to a private arbitration. Waymo, on the other hand, argued that it was not suing the former employee, Anthony Levandowski, but Uber, which it claims is using stolen technology.

Meanwhile, a court filing indicates that the the judge has also partially granted Waymo's request for an injunction, but the details remain under seal. Uber had already agreed to keep Levandowski away from its LiDAR work, but Waymo has been seeking a broader halt to Uber's self-driving car efforts. Neither company would comment on the injunction ruling.

Here's one key section in Judge William Alsup's ruling:

One final point of equity deserves mention. Defendants have repeatedly accused Waymo of using "artful" or "tactical" pleading to evade its arbitration obligations by omitting Levandowski as a defendant. These accusations are unwarranted. Waymo has honored its obligation to arbitrate against Levandowski by arbitrating its claims (concerning employee poaching) against Levandowski. Its decision to bring separate claims against defendants in court was not only reasonable but also the only course available, since Waymo had no arbitration agreement with defendants. Even though he is not a defendant here, moreover, Levandowski's assertion of his Fifth Amendment privilege has obstructed and continues to obstruct both discovery and defendants' ability to construct a complete narrative as to the fate of Waymo's purloined files. As a practical matter, it is hard to imagine how consolidating proceedings as to Levandowski and defendants, whether here or in arbitration, could alleviate these difficulties.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 12:30 p.m. ET: 1,506,936 — Total deaths: 90,057 — Total recoveries: 340,112Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 12:30 p.m. ET: 432,596 — Total deaths: 14,831 — Total recoveries: 24,235Map.
  3. Business: The Fed will lend up to $2.3 trillion — Another 6.6 million jobless claims were filed last week.
  4. Public health latest: Dr. Anthony Fauci said social distancing could reduce the U.S. death toll to 60,000.
  5. Travel update: TSA screened fewer than 100,000 people at airports in the U.S. on both Tuesday and Wednesday, compared to 2.2 million passengers on an average weekday a year ago.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Your hydroxychloroquine questions answered.
  7. What should I do? Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Trump plans second coronavirus task force focused on the economy

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump is preparing to launch a second coronavirus task force focused on reviving the U.S. economy, which has been battered by the coronavirus, two administration officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: There is growing energy within the West Wing to start easing people back to work by May 1. But some public health officials, including those on the coronavirus task force, have warned against doing so, raising concerns about reopening America too soon.

New York's coronavirus death toll hits record high for third straight day

799 people died from coronavirus in New York over the past 24 hours, a record high for the third straight day that brings the state's total death toll to 7,067.

Why it matters: Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a press conference that social distancing is helping to "flatten the curve" of coronavirus hospitalizations and that deaths are a lagging indicator. Still, he called the death figures "shocking and painful," noting that the virus has killed more than double the number of people who died in New York on 9/11.