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As Trial Date Nears, Stakes in 'Waymo v. Uber' Hit at Least $2.6B

SAN FRANCISCO — $2.6 billion.

That, according to a lawyer for Uber Technologies Inc., is what a damages expert hired by Google's autonomous vehicle unit, Waymo, has said is at stake under just one of the nine trade secrets set for trial in the knock-down, drag-out fight between the two companies.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup, who is overseeing the case, said he could see no reason to keep the number under wraps after Uber's lawyer, Susman Godfrey's William Carmody, initially balked at airing it in open court at a hearing Wednesday. Waymo's lawyers at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan had marked the figure confidential, Carmody said. But when the Quinn Emanuel lawyers were prodded by Alsup to convince him why the stakes should remain under wraps, they didn't object to Carmody discussing them.

The exchange, which finally put at least a partial price tag on the high-profile dispute, was part of a contentious hearing where Waymo's lawyers asked to put off an October 10 trial date due to a flood of new material they have to review as result of a recent appellate ruling. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit earlier this month gave Waymo access to a due diligence report prepared before Uber's purchase of a company founded by Anthony Levandowski, Waymo's former chief engineer. Levandowski was fired from Uber earlier this year after asserting his Fifth Amendment rights, and his decision not to testify has complicated the litigation. 

At Wednesday's hearing, Quinn Emanuel's Charles Verhoeven discussed things he said Waymo had learned since gaining access to the due diligence report prepared by investigative firm Stroz Friedberg. Notably, he said, Stroz found all but seven of the 14,000 files Levandowski downloaded to his work computer while still at Waymo were also stored on his personal laptop. Verhoeven, like Carmody, at first tiptoed around speaking publicly about the new findings before Alsup bristled.

"We can't go through life in this case saying anything that's in the due diligence report" should remain confidential, Alsup said.

"When we have the trial, it's going to be public, period. … This court belongs to the public. It does not belong to you lawyers" or the parties, Alsup said.

Alsup held off ruling on Waymo's request to push the trial date to Dec. 5 so that they can review material in the Stroz report and incorporate it into their case. But he encouraged both sides to continue to prepare for the earlier trial date and said that he would make a decision on Oct. 3. The trial is currently scheduled to last three weeks.

Ross Todd is bureau chief of The Recorder in San Francisco. He writes about litigation in the Bay Area and around California. Contact Ross at rtodd@alm.com. On Twitter: @Ross_Todd.

Contributing Author

Ross Todd

Ross Todd is bureau chief of The Recorder in San Francisco. He writes about litigation in the Bay Area and around California. Contact Ross at...

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