It has been revealed today that Uber has asked the former head of the company’s self-driving car program and the person at the center of the lawsuit from Alphabet, Anthony Levandowski, to cooperate with a court order which states he must hand over any documents or files he downloaded while working for Alphabet, even if they are on his personal devices. Earlier this year Levandowski asserted his rights under the Fifth Amendment in order to protect himself if the case was found to be a matter for the criminal courts. However, it now appears that Uber, through their general counsel Salle Yoo are urging him to waive his rights and turn over any documents he may have in possession, as well as the names of any individuals he may have discussed them with. Yoo went on to say that if he does not comply, his employment with Uber may be at risk.
The lawsuit originated because Alphabet accused Levandowski of stealing approximately 14,000 files from their company before he left their employment, and further say that Uber, and their subsidiary Otto, have gone on to use some of the technology contained in the files, namely a design for a key radar technology. Uber is disputing the lawsuit, saying that it does not deny that Levandowski may have stolen the files, but firmly dispute that they have used any of the technology detailed in the documents themselves.
The statement from Uber urging Levandowski to waive his rights under the Fifth Amendment came as a surprise to many, especially as Levandowski is known to have an excellent working relationship with the Chief Executive Officer of Uber, Travis Kalanick. However, it would appear that Uber’s hand has been forced in this matter – a court has recently ordered Uber to use the full extent of its corporate, employment, contractual, and other authority to ensure that the documents are returned. Up until now, Uber had asked Levandowski to voluntarily recuse himself from any work pertaining to the technology that is the focus of the lawsuit. That recusal has now been sanctioned by the courts who have also handed Alphabet a preliminary injunction.