Last month Google filed a lawsuit against Uber alleging that the ridesharing company colluded with a former Google engineer to steal trade secrets and proprietary designs from the Waymo self-driving car unit. Yesterday, Uber's lawyers filed a motion to move the case into the dark hole of arbitration.
The motion revealed for the first time that Google had previously filed two arbitration demands against the former engineer, Anthony Levandowski. The demands claimed that Levandowski had used confidential information about employee's salaries in order to poach his former co-workers for his own self-driving car company Otto which Uber quickly purchased for $US680 million ($888 million). Lawyers for Uber are now trying to use that previous arbitration as an argument that this case should be handled outside of a public courtroom as well.
The New York Times explains:
Uber wants to settle the lawsuit in arbitration, arguing that Waymo's claims stem from Mr. Levandowski's time at Google and are covered by an arbitration clause in his employment contract...
In Wednesday's motion, Uber said that Waymo filed two arbitration demands against Mr. Levandowski in October saying that he breached the confidentiality agreement in his employment contract with Google when he used confidential salary information to make "targeted offers to Waymo's employees" to aid Uber and Otto. Similarly, he used that information to induce "Waymo employees to join a competing driverless-car enterprise," according to court documents.
Arturo Gonzalez, one of Uber's lawyers, writes in the demand, "The broad arbitration provisions in Levandowski's employment contracts require that disputes with anyone arising out of or related to Levandowski's employment must be arbitrated."
It's understandable that Uber would want to handle things in arbitration for its relative speediness compared to a federal lawsuit. But what's strange is that it's only seeking to move the trade secrets and unfair competition claims, both of which it claims are meritless. Uber said that Waymo's claims about patent infringement should continue in federal court.
Does Uber think it has a better chance of having the claims dismissed in arbitration? Is it worried that a court battle over its allegedly shady practices might further tarnish its already dire reputation? Maybe, they're worried that a jury would be predisposed to dislike Uber. Whatever the reasoning is, I know that I want to see this battle play out.