The legal battle between Uber and Waymo looks destined for a courtroom battle in December, based on today’s report that the ride-hailing firm has rejected the self-driving tech firm’s settlement offer. Waymo reportedly demanded more than $1 billion and a public apology from Uber Technologies.
Given the many problems facing the ride-haling firm, it’s hard to imagine that it’s got $1 billion in cash just sitting around. Still, it could be a discount from the $1.86 billion Waymo has said they intend to seek if the case goes to trial.
Citing people familiar with the discussions, Reuters reported early this morning that Alphabet’s self-driving tech arm offered to settle the case involving alleged theft of trade secrets. In addition to the hefty lump sum and public apology, Waymo also reportedly demanded the appointment of an independent monitor to ensure that Uber never uses the technology it is accused of stealing.
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Reuters’ sources said that Uber rejected all the settlement terms “as non-starters.” The exact dollar amount Waymo reportedly asked for was not given; the sources only said that it was more than $1 billion.
We’ve heard before that Alphabet’s self-driving unit seems to have a very strong case against Uber, so its tough stance in negotiations seems to be valid. According to the media outlet, Waymo is being tough because it has strong “confidence in its legal position after months of pretrial victories.” Further, the extreme settlement terms seem to suggest that the company isn’t in any rush to close the case. An expert on trade secrets told the media outlet that the lawsuit is valuable because it distracts Uber management.
Alphabet’s self-driving division talked a federal judge into delaying the trial from this month to December. The company claimed it needs more time to examine evidence Uber hadn’t disclosed previously. Reuters’ sources also said that the two companies haven’t scheduled anymore settlement negotiations, although the judge in the case ordered them to go into mediation.
The case stems from accusations lodged against Anthony Levandowski, who had been leading Uber’s autonomous car project. Waymo accuses him of stealing over 14,000 files before resigning from Google, where he was also working on the company’s self-driving car. Levandowski has pleaded the Fifth Amendment, and he’s not being accused in the case. Uber continues to deny that any theft of Waymo’s trade secrets has taken place.
Meanwhile, it sounds like a federal criminal investigation in the case could be brewing. Bloomberg reported on Wednesday that the civil trial, which is slated for a December trial, could be placed on hold by the federal criminal case. Further, Levandowski may not be the only engineer or executive to plead the Fifth as Bloomberg reports that others may refuse to testify in the criminal probe.
Court filings revealed in June that then-Uber CEO Travis Kalanick knew that Levandowski had secret files from Waymo and had told him last year that Uber doesn’t need them and he shouldn’t bring them to work. The engineer reportedly said he had destroyed the files he had taken from the Alphabet company.