Uber-Waymo trial delayed as USA judge raises prospect of 'cover-up'

Waymo driverless car is displayed during a Google event in San Francisco Dec. 13 2016. Eric Risberg  AP

A federal court judge in California delayed the start of a civil trial between ride-hailing giant Uber and Waymo, Alphabet's self-driving vehicle unit, after receiving a memo written by a former Uber employee that about the alleged theft of trade secrets.

Gonzalez repeatedly tried to persuade Alsup that the allegations in Jacobs' letter had nothing to do with Waymo's case against Uber.

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Court filings indicate a letter from Jacobs' attorney to Uber counsel Angela Padilla details efforts to steal trade secrets from competitors.

He also claimed that the team used a secretive messaging system on an anonymous server that would delete texts nearly immediately in order "to ensure we didn't create a paper trail that came back to haunt the company in any potential civil or criminal litigation".

U.S. District Judge William Alsup described the allegations that surfaced in a Justice Department investigation as "scandalous".

Waymo, the self-driving auto company spun out of Google's moonshot unit, has accused Uber of recruiting its former employees and stealing its trade secrets in order to advance its development of autonomous vehicles. In light of the new evidence and allegations that Uber lawyers had been withholding Jacobs's letter, the judge indefinitely delayed the trial, which was set to begin on December 4.

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The hearing on Tuesday centered on a letter from a lawyer for former Uber security analyst Richard Jacobs that Uber did not show Waymo as both sides prepared their cases.

Jacobs said he learned of this activity through discussions at Uber with his manager and other colleagues.

The case follows Waymo's February lawsuit against Uber, which claimed that a former Waymo exec Anthony Levendowski shared confidential files with Uber.

The trial was originally scheduled to begin on December 4, but Waymo filed a last-minute motion to postpone on Monday.

In a statement defending itself, Uber pointed to Jacobs' testimony the he wasn't aware of the company stealing any of Waymo's trade secrets.

Most recently, Uber revealed that the data of 57 million Uber customers and 600,000 drivers had been stolen in a breach more than a year ago, and that the company had paid two hackers $100,000 to cover it up.

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