It has been a long road for Uber throughout the duration of its lawsuit with Waymo, especially with a judge who seemed significantly against Uber with almost every argument made. Monday's ruling was, while not necessarily a win for Uber, less punishing than many would have thought.
Judge Alsup was surprisingly tough on Waymo in his ruling on May 15. In a case that seemed to be loss after loss for Uber, Alsup gave Waymo a bit of wake-up call:
As nonexhaustive examples, not all of Waymo's 121 asserted trade secrets actually qualify as such, and few have been traced into the accused technology. Waymo's patent infringement accusations on this motion also proved meritless.
In his ruling, the judge pulled no punches on either Waymo or Uber. He granted that Waymo has valid complaints about the 14,000 documents Anthony Levandowski allegedly stole, stating that while there wasn't enough evidence at this time to say whether or not Uber accessed or used these documents, Levandowski has had them in his possession, allowing him undeserved and dangerous power over Waymo.
But the judge turned on Waymo for its claims Uber stole and utilized its LiDAR technology. Alsup found that Uber's "Fiji" LiDAR technology was different enough from Waymo's, contrary to testimony by expert witness Gregory Kintz. The judge stated that the testimony was only a prediction and that prediction was based on little evidence. In fact, according to Alsup, "Expert Kintz was flat-out wrong."
Judge Alsup was also concerned by aspects of Waymo's "trade secrets" claims. He professed that some claims were too monopolistic in nature, noting that one company should not own the rights to the broad scope of a technology such as LiDAR.
It was a surprising ruling, to say the least. Waymo got way less than they thought they would, and Uber made it out alive. Levandowski may not be heading up the driverless program any longer, but Uber can continue to develop its self-driving technology.
At least, for now.