On Monday May 15, U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup granted a partial injunction that ordered Uber Technologies Inc. to return stolen files to Waymo, the Alphabet subsidiary now handling Google’s self-driving car project.

On Thursday May 11, under a sealed order, Alsup referred the case to the U.S. Department of Justice to further investigate the claims of trade secret theft. Alsup felt there was enough evidence to initiate a criminal investigation of claims that Uber stole self-driving technology from Waymo.

We previously wrote about the lawsuit that Waymo filed against Uber in February that alleged Uber stole vital proprietary information about its self-driving technology.  The focus of Waymo’s lawsuit centered around Otto, a self-driving truck startup, acquired by Uber in 2016 for $680 million. The founders of Otto are ex-employees of Google, one of which is Anthony Levandowski. Waymo alleged six weeks prior to his resignation, Levandowski “downloaded over 14,000 highly confidential and proprietary design files for Waymo’s various hardware systems, including designs of Waymo’s LiDAR and circuit board.” Waymo further alleged many of the employees who left Waymo for Otto also downloaded “Waymo trade secrets in the days and hours prior to their departure.”

In the court order Alsup wrote “[t]he bottom line is the evidence indicates that Uber hired Levandowski even though it knew or should have known that he possessed over 14,000 confidential Waymo files likely containing Waymo’s intellectual property; that at least some information from those files, if not the files themselves, has seeped into Uber’s own LiDAR development efforts; and that at least some of said information likely qualifies for trade secret protection.”

Waymo responded to the recent order and said “[c]ompetition should be fueled by innovation in the labs and on the roads, not through unlawful actions. We welcome the order to prohibit Uber’s use of stolen documents containing trade secrets developed by Waymo through years of research.”

Alsup stated in the order that Levandowski is to be removed from any involvement in LiDAR work; he is to be removed from all communication and involvement with LiDAR, and he is prohibited from “consulting, copying, or otherwise using the downloaded materials in any way.” It should be noted that Uber had already taken these measures prior to the Judge’s ruling.

Alsup also ordered Uber to submit all communications, written and oral, in a chronological log where Levandowski discussed LiDAR with anyone. The log is to detail times, places, subjects involved and any notes that may have been taken. A “thorough investigation” is also to be performed for every Uber employee “who has seen or heard any part of the downloaded materials” and that information is to be submitted under oath.  The log is to be turned into Waymo and the Court by June 23, 2017.

The above orders come with a strict adherence guideline in that complete and detailed records are to be taken to prove compliance with the judge’s orders. Uber was also ordered to turn over all downloaded materials by Levandowski to Waymo or the Court by May 31, 2017.

Levandowski has refused to testify in this case and has invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Although this is a blow to Uber, the company did catch a small break when Alsup did not require Uber to halt their autonomous car research as Waymo had originally requested. Alsup did not feel as though the patent infringement claims brought by Waymo were strong enough to support an order and said “Waymo’s patent infringement accusations on this motion also proved meritless.”

In an emailed statement, an Uber spokesperson said “[w]e are pleased with the court’s ruling that Uber can continue building and utilizing all of its self-driving technology, including our innovation around LiDAR. We look forward to moving toward trial and continuing to demonstrate that our technology has been built independently from the ground up.”

In a recent update, a court filing made by Levandowski on May 18, 2017, alleges that Alsup is pressuring Uber to terminate Levandowski’s employment if he does not waive his fifth amendment right, cooperate, and answer questions. Levandowski confirmed Uber did in fact threaten to terminate his employment unless he waives his constitutional right against self-incrimination and reveals whether he took any Waymo documents. In a letter to Levandowski, Uber’s general counsel stated, “[w]hile we have respected your personal liberties, it is our view that the court’s order requires us to make these demands of you.”

Levandowski asked the court to modify the injunction to show the court order is not coercing Uber to terminate his employment and waive his fifth amendment right.

Unfortunately, for Anthony Levandowski, Uber has officially terminated his employment as of Tuesday May 30, 2017. Levandowski was asked by Uber to provide them with information but missed the internal deadline. In a statement to Uber employees, Uber’s associate general counsel for employment and litigation, Angela L. Padilla said, “[o]ver the last few months Uber has provided significant evidence to the court to demonstrate that our self-driving technology has been built independently. Over that same period, Uber has urged Anthony to fully cooperate in helping the court get to the facts and ultimately helping to prove our case.” Padilla further stated, “[w]e take our obligations under the court order very seriously, and so we have chosen to terminate his employment at Uber.”

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