Waymo Just Won a Key Victory in Its Legal Battle With Uber

Uber must turn over a crucial document to its self-driving car rival.

Uber Advanced Technologies Group

A federal judge just handed Waymo a major win in its legal battle against Uber. The judge ruled that Uber must turn over a key document Waymo has been fighting to get access to for months.

The document is a due diligence report commissioned by Uber when it was looking to buy self-driving truck startup Otto. The startup was founded by Anthony Levandowski, a former Waymo engineer the company accuses of of stealing trade secrets. Waymo alleges those secrets were handed over to Uber when the ride-sharing giant purchased Otto last year.

Levandowski is pleading the Fifth Amendment in the case, and argued that the due diligence report was covered by those rights, according to Recode. The judge denied his appeal. Levandowski no longer works for Uber, having been fired due to his lack of cooperation in the lawsuit.

"We did not join Mr. Levandowski's appeal to block disclosure of the report, and we are ready to finally disclose it to Waymo today," an Uber statement said. "While Waymo has obtained over 238,000 pages of production documents from Uber and conducted a dozen inspections over 61 hours of our facilities, source code, documents, and engineers' computers, there's still no evidence that any files have come to Uber, let alone that they're being used."

But the report could indicate whether Uber knew Levandowski was in possession of stolen Waymo files before Uber bought Otto, as Waymo alleges. Even if it can prove Levandowski stole the files, Waymo still needs to prove that Uber condoned or encouraged the theft, and that the ride-sharing company actually used the information in those files for its own self-driving car program.

At the same hearing, the judge dealt a second blow to Uber by denying the company's appeal of an earlier court decision not to send the case to arbitration. Uber has argued that the dispute is purely between Levandowski and Waymo, and should thus be handled in arbitration, per Levandowski's employee agreement with Waymo.

The lawsuit is one of many challenges faced by new Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. Uber has been hammered by various scandals since the beginning of the year—a mess Khosrowshahi must now attempt to clean up.