Uber’s patent fight with Google over critical self-driving car technology just got a lot worse for the ride-sharing company. Uber looked to score an early against Google’s Waymo, but that didn’t happen. Not only was Uber denied arbitration, but the company is now in danger of facing criminal charges over the alleged theft of Waymo tech.
Judge William Alsup, presiding over the case, denied Uber’s request for arbitration on Thursday, which means the case will go to trial.
“This was a desperate bid by Uber to avoid the court’s jurisdiction,” Waymo said in a statement. “We welcome the court’s decision today, and we look forward to holding Uber responsible in court for its misconduct.”
The surprising part of the judge’s verdict concerns the potential federal charges that Uber might face.
“This case is referred to the United States Attorney for investigation of possible theft of trade secrets based on the evidentiary record supplied thus far concerning plaintiff Waymo LLC’s claims for trade secret misappropriation,” the judge wrote in a separate order. “Said evidentiary record is described in detail in the Court’s order, also issued today, on Waymo’s motion for provisional relief. The Court takes no position on whether a prosecution is or is not warranted, a decision entirely up to the United States Attorney. The Clerk shall please send a copy of this order to the United States Attorney.”
Waymo filed the lawsuit against Uber in February, alleging that former self-driving car tech engineer Anthony Levandowski stole 9.7GB of confidential data before departing Google and forming his own car startup. A key employee for Google’s car project, Levandowski sold his company to Uber for nearly $700 million, just six months after launching Otto.