Judge postpones Uber trade secret trial based on bombshell memo – CNET

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A federal court judge in California on Tuesday delayed the start of a civil trial between Uber and Alphabet’s Waymo self-driving car unit, after receiving a memo from a former Uber employee about the theft of trade secrets. 

U.S. federal court Judge William Alsup said that he only just received a letter a former Uber security analyst sent to an Uber lawyer. The contents of the letter have not been shared publicly yet, but the Wall Street Journal reports employees at Uber were trained to “impede” ongoing investigations by using messages that vanished and could not be traced back to the company.

In a 37-page memo written earlier this year, Ric Jacobs, an ex-Uber employee, detailed how disappearing messages, and laptops that work offline, among other tactics were used by Uber to allegedly obtain trade secrets and destroy evidence, the WSJ reports. Uber fired Jacobs in April. 

Waymo, which said it had learned of the new evidence last week after the U.S. Justice Department shared it with the judge, had asked the court on Monday to postpone the start of the trial, which was set to begin next week on December 4.

At a hearing in San Francisco federal court Tuesday, Alsup granted the request. He didn’t indicate when the trial would begin. 

 “We’re going to have to put the trial off because if even half of what’s in that letter is true it would be a huge injustice to force Waymo to go to trial,” he said, according to the WSJ.

Waymo said in its court filing that Uber concealed the letter despite demands from Waymo and the judge to disclose all relevant evidence.

Waymo and Uber did not respond to requests for comment.

Waymo sued Uber in February, accusing the company of stealing secretive self-driving car technology. The case centers around former Google employee Anthony Levandowski, who allegedly stole 14,000 “highly confidential” files before leaving the company to start his own self-driving truck startup. Uber bought that startup several months later for $680 million and placed Levandowski as the head of its autonomous vehicle program.

Levandowski has since been fired by Uber. But Waymo claims that doesn’t dismiss the possibility that the ride-hailing company still used the secrets in the pilfered files for its own self-driving car tech.

Federal prosecutors from the DOJ are also looking at whether the trade secrets in question were stolen illegally. So far, no charges have been filed.

Uber has been rocked by several scandals in the past year year, including several sexual harassment claims. In a scandal that broke last week, the company tried to cover up a 2016 data breach involving millions of its customers and drivers. 

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