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Judge in Uber-Waymo suit says Google co-founder Sergey Brin 'better show up'

  • Judge William Alsup said that Alphabet co-founder Sergey Brin has to show up if he's called
  • Alsup said Waymo has a strong case that engineer Anthony Levandowski stole documents when he left Google's self-driving car unit for Uber, but not that Uber used these to create its driverless-car technology.
Sergey Brin, president of Alphabet and co-founder of Google
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Sergey Brin, president of Alphabet and co-founder of Google

In the latest hearing in the Uber vs. Waymo lawsuit on Wednesday, San Francisco district judge William Alsup addressed Uber's complaint that Google co-founder Sergey Brin is trying to avoid deposition.

Alsup said, "you go back and tell that guy he better show up," after voicing frustration at Alphabet executives claiming they are "too busy." Brin is currently the president of Alphabet, the holding company that includes both Google and Waymo, the self-driving car unit that was spun out of Google.

Alsup also said Anthony Levandowski, the engineer at the center of the dispute, could be called to testify in court even though he has previously pleaded the fifth. Alsup also said that all questions by Uber and Waymo would be reviewed in advance and must have evidence backing them.

Levandowski worked for Google's self-driving car unit before leaving to found his own company, Otto, which was later acquired by Uber. Waymo alleges that Levandowski stole over 14,000 documents from Alphabet when he left the company and took these trade secrets to Uber.

Alsup said Waymo has a strong case that Levandowski stole documents, but not that Uber used these to create its driverless-car technology. He told Waymo to come up with concrete evidence that Uber used its trade secrets in creating their technology by August 24.

"If you can't prove that Uber got these trade secrets, maybe you're in a world of trouble," Alsup said.

In a recent filing, Waymo also alleges that Uber's own lawyers at Morrison & Foerster (Mofo) helped cover up this theft. Judge Alsup didn't offer a ruling on this at Wednesday's hearing, but said it's "disingenuous to say no one from Mofo will testify."

"Whether or not Mofo testifies or not, their name will come up time and time again," Alsup said. "Mofo is a character in the story to be told to the jury." At Wednesday's hearing, Alsup indicated that he most likely would not disqualify Mofo from continuing to represent Uber.

Waymo and Uber lawyers also went back and forth over to specific evidence that could be brought into court.

Waymo lawyers said they tried for six weeks to get text messages between former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and Levandowski but Uber hasn't been cooperative in turning over Kalanick's cell phone. Waymo also wants to bring in the letter Uber's board wrote to Kalanick about his resignation as evidence, claiming it shows a connection between the trial and his resignation.

Uber said this a two-page letter, where "half a sentence" references the existence of the lawsuit, so therefore it is not relevant.

Kalanick has also hired former San Francisco U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag and one of her colleagues at law firm Orrick to represent him in the upcoming trial, Bloomberg reported today. Waymo will question Kalanick on Thursday July 27 as they gather evidence before the trial starts in October.

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