Nov. 29 (UPI) — Alphabet’s lawsuit against Uber over its self-driving car technology was delayed Tuesday after the judge reviewed a letter from a former Uber employee alleging the company used covert tactics to steal secrets.
The existence of the letter, which describes a secretive culture within Uber, was made known to the court days before the scheduled start of the trial in which Alphabet accused Uber of stealing driverless-car trade secrets from its Waymo unit.
The presiding judge, U.S. District Judge William Alsup of San Francisco, delayed the beginning of the trial indefinitely, citing the seriousness of the allegations presented in the Uber employee’s letter.
“We’re going to have to put the trial off because if even half of what’s in that letter is true it would be a huge injustice to force Waymo to go to trial,” Alsup said at a hearing.
The 30-page letter written by a lawyer for Richard Jacobs, a former Uber global intelligence employee, was submitted as evidence in Alphabet’s trade-secret misappropriation lawsuit against Uber.
Jacobs testified that a unit within Uber known as Marketplace Analytics was created to unearth trade secrets and competitive intelligence from its rivals and that the company used devices that stored information outside of its servers.
The letter alleged Uber trained employees in tactics to “impede, obstruct or influence” ongoing legal investigations, including conversing through disappearing message applications such as Wickr to avoid a paper trail.
It also stated executives were sent to Pittsburgh, where Uber’s autonomous vehicles were being developed, to be educated on how “to prevent Uber’s unlawful schemes from seeing the light of day.”
Alsup said the allegations in the letter suggest “there was some plumbers unit” within Uber “doing bad deeds.”
He also scolded Uber’s attorneys for withholding the letter and the behavior described within.
“Any company that would set up a surreptitious system is as suspicious as can be,” Alsup said.