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Otto Trucking dropped as defendant from Waymo lawsuit against Uber

( Photo: Shutterstock )

As the trial date later this month quickly approaches, Waymo LLC is starting to feel some additional heat from U.S. District Judge William Alsup as details of Waymo v. Uber begin to surface, ARS Technica reports.

Alsup dismissed one of the named defendants in the case, Otto Trucking, saying that “Waymo nevertheless seeks to preserve its trade secret misappropriation claims against Otto Trucking by lumping it together with Uber and [Anthony] Levandowski under various unpersuasive theories,” according to an order.

The judge said that Waymo was trying to name Otto as the co-defendant instead of Levandowski, who is accused of stealing trade secrets.

The order noted that Levandowski and Otto Trucking are “not interchangeable for purposes of this particular litigation.” It also noted how Waymo clarified several times, in either the United States District Court for the Northern District of California or the Federal Circuit Court, that “it has not sued Levandowski herein,” making Otto Trucking “vicariously liable for Levandowski’s misappropriation” as Waymo contended.

The facts of the case revolve around the 14,000 confidential files that Levandowski allegedly stole containing “trade secrets concerning Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology from Waymo prior to building his own companies, Ottomotto and Otto Trucking. After Uber acquired Ottomotto, it then retained Levandowski in the company to head “its self-driving car efforts.”

On whether Uber is set to benefit from the trade secrets in question is based more on the perception of future growth as the latter part of the order explained. While Waymo is free to sue Otto et al again if additional claims to prop up based on future actions, the order by Alsup noted how “those actions are not properly the subject of the operative complaint in this litigation.”

Alsup elaborated in how Waymo does not have case as far as future results go by writing how

“The question of whether a defendant benefitted from trade secret misappropriation would typically be one of damages, reached only after the misappropriation itself has been established in the first instance,” Alsup wrote. It is not yet clear if Uber, through Ottomotto, has profited from the LiDAR technology contained in the allegedly stolen files.

On whether all defendants are “jointly and severally liable” for the alleged acts of one person [Levandowski], Alsup said that Waymo “fails to raise a genuine dispute” by giving “no explanation or authority” on what made these claims relevant.

“Waymo’s strongest evidence on misappropriation is about Levandowski, not about Otto Trucking, and as a result of its own litigation strategy, Waymo cannot treat the two as fungible targets. Nor can it circumvent this limitation of its own making by restyling its theory as one of vicarious liability, ratification, or joint and several liability,” Alsup wrote.

One of the nine of the trade secrets Waymo contends were stolen was dropped from the case as well. The secret, Trade Secret 96, was not considered as a secret as it pertained to the Petzval transmit lens surfaces. In effect, as a reply to the testimony provided by Waymo’s expert, Dr. Lambertus Hesselink, the judge ruled that if “two identical lenses will always have identical Petzval surfaces,” then “that proves nothing for Waymo.”

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