A judge has denied Uber’s request to force Waymo’s case against the company into arbitration.
Judge William Alsup’s denial is the first major decision in the case since the dispute between the companies kicked off in February when Waymo, the self-driving-car division that spun out of Google in December, accused Uber of stealing its trade secrets and intellectual property and of infringing on patents related to its lidar systems.
Since then, Uber’s lawyers have argued that Google has made its arbitration agreement overly broad when it says they have to arbitrate disputes with anyone as it relates to an individual’s employment. Much of Waymo’s case is built on the actions taken by Anthony Levandowski, a former Google engineer who allegedly downloaded 14,000 files from Google before leaving the company.
Uber’s belief was that Google purposefully brought the case against Uber and not Levandowski to keep it in the public spotlight and avoid its obligation to his employment agreement. While any disputes between Waymo and Levandowski would have to be bound by the employment contract, Waymo did not sue Levandowski directly; rather, it sued Uber and the companies founded by Levandowski that were acquired by Uber, including Otto.
“Defendants have repeatedly accused Waymo of using “artful” or “tactical” pleading to evade its arbitration obligations by omitting Levandowski as a defendant. These accusations are unwarranted,” Alsup wrote.
Instead, Alsup says Waymo followed the proper course of action.
“Waymo has honored its obligation to arbitrate against Levandowski by arbitrating its claims (concerning employee poaching) against Levandowski. Its decision to bring separate claims against defendants in court was not only reasonable but also the only course available, since Waymo had no arbitration agreement with defendants,” Alsup continued.
“This was a desperate bid by Uber to avoid the court’s jurisdiction,” a Waymo spokesperson said. “We welcome the court’s decision today, and we look forward to holding Uber responsible in court for its misconduct.”