Waymo v. Uber Case May Stall Over Criminal Investigations

October 12, 2017 - Written By Dominik Bosnjak

The case between Waymo and Uber may stall and even be indefinitely suspended over numerous criminal investigations led by the United States Department of Justice which is presently probing the ride-hailing company on numerous fronts, attorney Jim Pooley told Bloomberg. According to recent reports, Uber is currently the subject of at least five independent criminal probes, two more than previously believed, with the DOJ looking into many aspects of the company’s business which gained a reputation of being aggressively positioned toward expansion at all costs, with its top executives being willing to test various laws and other regulations with the goal of gaining a competitive edge over rivals.

Mr. Pooley believes that as federal investigations into Uber progress, many of the company’s executives may opt to follow the route taken by its former self-driving boss Anthony Levandowski who invoked the constitutional rights given to him by the Fifth Amendment and refused to testify in the case or provide physical evidence over self-incrimination concerns. The trial itself was already set to start yesterday but was delayed until December 4th after Waymo asked for more time to review additional evidence Uber was compelled to disclose in the form of a due diligence report on Otto Trucking, Mr. Levandowski’s self-driving startup which the company acquired last summer, with the plaintiff claiming that transaction was the material start of Uber’s collusion with the engineer on stealing Waymo’s autonomous driving technology. While Waymo was the one who filed for postponement and Uber wanted to move to trial, the situation may be reversed should Uber find itself being subjected to more active criminal probes from the DOJ in the coming weeks, Mr. Pooley speculates.

Even though the ultimate decision on the matter would fall on the U.S. District Judge William Alsup who’s presiding over the case, criminal matters always take precedence over civil ones and the San Francisco-based judge would likely freeze the proceedings in such a scenario. Among the reported federal investigations into Uber is the one related to Waymo’s claims which Judge Alsup ordered investigated in May, though Mr. Pooley notes that criminal charges may be based on a trade secret misappropriation attempt or conspiracy without the act itself being committed, whereas civil cases like the one started by Waymo wouldn’t result in a guilty verdict if Uber didn’t truly misappropriate protected intellectual property.