Alphabet’s Waymo Wants A Public Legal Battle With Uber

April 11, 2017 - Written By Dominik Bosnjak

Alphabet’s self-driving unit Waymo filed an opposition request against Uber’s recent motion for arbitration that the San Francisco-based tech giant requested after being hit with a lawsuit alleging it stole LiDAR designs and other trade secrets from Waymo. The motion opposing Uber’s arbitration request was filed on Monday evening, with Waymo arguing it never agreed to arbitrate the dispute with Uber and cannot be legally forced to do so. While the court has yet to decide on that argument, Waymo’s latest move indicates that Alphabet’s subsidiary is adamant to keep its legal battle with Uber public. While Uber previously argued the lawsuit has no merit and is only meant to stifle its efforts to develop competing driverless vehicles, Waymo’s insistence on keeping the dispute public may suggest the company believes it has a strong case against Uber and is adamant to drag its competitor through all the bad publicity it can in the process of suing for damages and preventing Uber from commercializing the technology it allegedly stole.

Even if Uber is right and Alphabet’s lawsuit has no basis in reality, the Mountain View-based company might still be willing to keep the proceedings public in light of the fact that its competitor has so far been fighting to keep many documents related to the lawsuit a secret. Anthony Lewandowski, a former employee of Waymo and founder of self-driving startup Otto that Uber acquired last year even refused to participate in the case that formally doesn’t name him as a defendant, but still alleges Lewandowski stole thousands of sensitive documents from Waymo that Uber ended up using. Lewandowski already pleaded the Fifth Amendment when asked to testify in the case, which might be reason enough for Alphabet to insist on keeping the proceedings public and keep Lewandowski’s possibly suspicious behavior in the media spotlight.

Uber initially filed a motion for private arbitration based on the fact that the employment agreement Lewandowski signed when joining Waymo allegedly has a broad arbitration provision. If Uber manages to move the dispute to arbitration, all related proceedings would never be officially publicized. Waymo’s aforementioned opposition to the request claims that point is moot and no contents of Lewandowski’s employment agreement can be used to force the company to agree to resolve the dispute in private. An update on the situation will likely follow later this month.