The Uber-Waymo trial has been delayed again, this time because a former Uber employee alleged in court on Tuesday that stealing trade secrets from other firms was standard operating procedure at the ride-sharing firm. The former employee’s testimony could be the nail in Uber’s coffin—as if it needs another one.
Smoking gun in Uber-Waymo trial?
According to Bloomberg, former Uber employee Richard Jacobs alleged in sworn testimony that his team at Uber was routinely tasked with stealing trade secrets. He said he was part of the ride-sharing firm’s corporate surveillance team, which has now been disbanded. In addition to theft of trade secrets, he claimed that his team monitored metrics and incentives offered to drivers by competing platforms in other countries.
Jacobs was sworn in to give his testimony on Tuesday in the Uber-Waymo trial after prosecutors alerted the judge in the case that he had been in contact with them. U.S. District Judge William Alsup said he takes Jacobs’ testimony seriously because prosecutors believe it to be credible.
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Jacobs was part of the “Strategic Services Group” at Uber, although Bloomberg says the team has now been renamed. He said in his sworn testimony that he didn’t believe what they were doing was “patently illegal,” although he did have “questions about the ethics of it.”
Judge flags another Uber practice
Alsup reportedly expressed concerns about a hidden messaging system that Jacobs said they used at Uber. According to the judge, use of the system could be a criminal offense. The witness described the messaging system as an “invisible system, not part of the regular server system.” He said the system deletes messages almost immediately after they are sent after just a very short delay.
A Waymo lawyer asked Jacobs about an attorney on staff at Uber who allegedly gave them guidance in their aims to “impede, obstruct, or influence” lawsuits that were filed against the company. According to Jacobs, use of “encrypted and ephemeral communications intended to destroy communications that might be considered sensitive” was part of these efforts.
Uber-Waymo trial delayed
Although jury selection was scheduled to begin tomorrow in the Uber-Waymo trial, but that has been delayed. This is the second delay in the case, as the judge already delayed it once last month when he granted Waymo more time to review a report that Uber commissioned in 2016 to vet its hiring of Anthony Levandowski, the engineer around whom the Uber-Waymo trial is centered.
Uber is accused of stealing trade secrets about autonomous vehicles from Alphabet’s Waymo. Levandowski has not been officially accused in the case, although the case hinges on allegations that he stole thousands of files before resigning from Google, where he was working on the company’s autonomous car project. The engineer has pleaded the Fifth Amendment, and Uber still denies the allegations of trade secret theft. Waymo may be seeking at least $1 billion from Uber.