First a disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and don’t pretend to be one on the Internet – at least most of the time.
The Uber Waymo trade secret theft trial is being delayed once again.
Why? Because the Department of Justice showed the Judge a 37 page letter from the lawyer of a former Uber employee that Uber had not shared with Waymo. The judge now wants the former employee to appear in court.
The judge is “unhappy” with Uber because he asked them to produce all relevant documents months ago and this document was not among those produced. The judge said that he can’t trust anything that they say because they have been proven wrong so many times before. That is probably not the best way to get on the good side of the judge.
The ex-employee was fired from his job at Uber in April but still works for them as a consultant. They paid him $2+ million plus another million at the end of his consulting contract plus $1 million plus in Uber stock.
The ex-employee said that Uber has a unit within the company called marketplace analytics who’s job is to obtain competitive intel, “acquire” trade secrets and gathering code base. Your basic dirty tricks organization who’s job it is to break the law and steal confidential information from competitors.
OK, maybe I am being a bit harsh on them, but the methods and techniques really determine whether they broke any laws or not and that is still to be seen.
The ex-employee said that the employees of this group were trained in impeding, obstructing or influencing any lawsuit against Uber. This includes working very hard to make sure that there was no paper trail of what they were doing.
The employees used self destructing messaging services like Wikr, computers that could not be traced back to Uber and separate servers from the rest of the company. They even made up reasons – apparently not legally valid ones – for attorney-client privilege. They also engaged 10 outside security firms.
Waymo is suing Uber for almost $2 billion for theft of trade secrets.
Uber of course, said this is all made up.
There is one thing that is crystal clear as I play a lawyer on the Internet (no this is not legal advice). *IF* and that is a big if, Uber hid information that they should have disclosed to the other side, that qualifies as a big no-no and could cause Uber all kinds of problems all the way up to the judge providing a verdict in Waymo’s favor. That level of pain is VERY unusual, but the judge could fine the company, hold them in contempt or even instruct the jury to interpret certain facts in a way that is very unfavorable to Uber because of this.
Right now, he has delayed the trial while Waymo’s attorneys review the letter and decide what to do.
As far as how this affects you and me – if you believe that you MAY be sued, you have “a duty to preserve” evidence that may be relevant to the future case. Not preserving the evidence could cause you to lose the case.
OK, that seems pretty straight forward.
Well, maybe. What if your employees, on their own, decided to use Telegraph or Wickr; decided to use other non-company systems to process or store data – all of which could be part of your duty to preserve. And what if they did this without telling senior management about this.
The company could be in a world of hurt legally.
What this means is that you as an employer need to understand what tools your employees maybe using, even unofficially or unsanctioned and work with your corporate attorneys to figure out if that is a problem.
For certain industries, you have a duty to preserve even if there is no lawsuit anticipated, so for those companies, without regard to any potential lawsuit, using these tools can get them in trouble.
Something else for you to deal with. Sorry.
Information for this post came from Reuters.