Alphabet CEO Larry Page was thrust into the center of the high-profile legal battle that Google and Uber are waging over self-driving car technology on Tuesday.
At issue is a conversation that Page may, or may not, have had with Anthony Levandowski, the self-driving car pioneer who is accused of taking technology he worked on while at Google and bringing it to Uber.
Lawyers for Uber say they need access to Page, to ask him about the conversations.
Page was aware that Levandowski had supposedly taken 14,000 files from Google when he left, Uber lawyer Arturo Gonzalez alleged in court on Tuesday. And Page was aware that Levandowski was thinking of joining Uber before Uber acquired his startup company. If true, that could weaken Google’s claims that Levandowski acted in bad faith.
But don’t expect to hear much from Page anytime soon.
Lawyers for Waymo, the official name of Google’s self-driving car spinout, called Gonzalez’s points about the conversations between Page and Levandowski as “something made up” in his mind.
And Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley was also sceptical that Uber needed to depose Page since its lawyers failed to give evidence that these conversations happened in the first place.
Instead, Uber will get to ask Page a single, written question.
Page will have to answer a question about whether or not he had conversations with Levandowski pre-acquisition where the engineer said he was thinking about going to Uber.
“I realise I’m giving you an inch when you wanted a mile,” Corley said.
The next week will be crucial for the two parties involved in the trade secrets case that’s pitting two of Silicon Valley’s giants against each other. On Wednesday, the two will have a settlement conference followed by a hearing about Uber’s motion to compel arbitration on Thursday. The following week will be the hearing over the preliminary injunction.