| SAN FRANCISCO, March 30
SAN FRANCISCO, March 30 The U.S. judge
overseeing a blockbuster case over self-driving car technology
suggested Uber could face an injunction if a key Uber executive
does not testify for fear of exposing himself to criminal
prosecution, according to a transcript seen by Reuters.
Waymo, the self-driving car unit of Alphabet, sued
ride services company Uber Technologies last month,
alleging that a former Waymo executive, Anthony Levandowski,
downloaded over 14,000 confidential documents before leaving the
company to subsequently join Uber, which benefited from the
Levandowski is not a defendant in the case, but he is a
central figure in the high-profile litigation, which pits two
Silicon Valley technology giants against each other, both of
which are vying to dominate in the competitive autonomous
Waymo is seeking a preliminary injunction from the court,
which would temporarily stop Uber from using any of the
allegedly stolen intellectual property. A hearing is scheduled
for May 3.
Uber, which has said the allegations are baseless but has
not yet responded to Waymo's complaint in court, has argued that
the trade secrets issue should be sent to arbitration.
"You represent somebody who's in a mess," U.S. District
Court Judge William Alsup in San Francisco told the attorney for
Levandowski, Miles Ehrlich, during a closed court hearing on
Ehrlich had told the court that based on the "potential for
criminal action" against Levandowski, the engineer would be
asserting his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.
In the hearing, Alsup bandied with lawyers for Uber and
Levandowski over the allegedly stolen documents, some of which
Uber said were not in its possession, but in Levandowski's.
"I'm sorry that Mr. Levandowski has got his -- got himself
in a fix. That's what happens, I guess, when you download 14,000
documents and take them, if he did. But I don't hear anybody
denying that," Alsup said.
Uber attorney Arturo Gonzalez said he would like Levandowski
to testify in court, but could not force him to. But if the case
was sent to arbitration, Levandowski might choose to testify,
Gonzalez said, because arbitration proceedings are not public.
"At least it's not in the public where it's going to be in
the front page of The New York Times the next day," Gonzalez
said, an argument rejected by the court, which said the public
had a right to know details of the case.
Gonzalez suggested Uber's strategy would be to convince the
court that Uber was "not using any of these things" Waymo says
Still, Alsup warned Uber of its difficulty in dodging a
preliminary injunction in light of Levandowski's Fifth Amendment
"They have a record over there of theft," Alsup said,
referring to Waymo. "And if you think for a moment that I'm
going to stay my hand because your guy is taking the Fifth
Amendment and not issue a preliminary injunction to shut down
that ... you're wrong."
(Additional reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Peter Henderson
and Leslie Adler)