Waymo worried that Uber may peek at secret court documents

A judge ruled Thursday that Uber’s in-house counsel should have access to the material

Alphabet's autonomous car unit Waymo is concerned about giving Uber Technologies’ internal counsel extensive access to documents it filed under seal in connection with its lawsuit alleging theft of trade secrets and patent infringement by the ride-hailing company.

But on Thursday, District Judge William Alsup of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that Nicole Bartow, in-house counsel for Uber, could review material even at the highest level of confidentiality, “given that she has agreed to be bound by the protective order and is hereby ordered to do so.”

The side-plot in Waymo’s dispute with Uber reflects the fierce competition in the burgeoning automated cars market and the particular distrust between the two companies in the current dispute. Waymo has alleged in its complaint that Uber got a head start by pilfering its technology, building its own comparable LiDAR system within nine months.

Waymo filed a suit in the California court last month, alleging that a former employee stole trade secrets relating to self-driving cars before leaving to start Otto, a self-driving trucking company that was later acquired by Uber. Other former Waymo employees who left for Uber and Otto were also found downloading sensitive files, Waymo alleged. The ride-hailing company is already testing its automated cars in two locations in the U.S. and also holds a permit to test these vehicles in California.

Waymo also charges Uber with infringing two patents. Last week, it gave notice of a motion for a preliminary injunction asking that Uber should be banned from "accessing, using, imitating, copying, disclosing, or making available to any person or entity" Waymo’s asserted trade secrets or from making, using, selling, or offering to sell devices that infringe its patents.

Uber’s external lawyers at Morrison & Foerster had written to the judge earlier this week that Waymo’s counsel will not provide unredacted papers to the law firm without an "agreement to a form of interim protective order that would preclude access by Uber in-house counsel—even those not involved in 'competitive decisionmaking.'"

Waymo claimed to have filed a 69 page document with over 120 trade secrets, according to the letter from the law firm. “We have not seen that document," Uber's lawyer wrote.

The law firm said it could not agree to Waymo’s request because it anticipated that the in-house counsel would provide essential assistance in litigating Waymo’s motion for preliminary injunction.

Waymo could not be immediately reached for comment after business hours.

In a response on Wednesday to the letter from Morrison & Foerster, the company had replied to the court that it was not opposed to any disclosure of its trade secret litigation materials to an in-house attorney for Uber. “Instead, Waymo asks that such access is granted sparingly, and only after the attorney’s work responsibilities are sufficiently disclosed to ensure that there will be no possibility of (further) improper use of Waymo’s trade secrets by Defendants,” it added.

Waymo added that it had from the beginning made it clear that it was willing to provide “unredacted preliminary injunction papers on an outside-counsel-eyes only basis.”

In a tentative order Wednesday regarding access to the material under seal, Judge Alsup said the condition imposed by Waymo was unreasonable, if true. “If the allegations in the complaint are true, then defendants already know the sensitive information,” Judge Alsup wrote. The Judge also shortened to 48 hours the 14-day period for parties to object to the disclosure of protected material to experts.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?