Alphabet's Waymo in bid to arbitrate claims against former employee

Alphabet Inc's Waymo self-driving unit has sought to arbitrate claims against a former employee at the centre of its lawsuit against Uber, according to court records released yesterday. Uber said this strengthened its bid to get the case settled through arbitration.

The company's lawsuit, filed last month, triggered what could turn out to be a long-drawn, bitter trade-secrets dispute between the two tech rivals. Both companies were vying to first bring self-driving cars to the market, which was considered one of the biggest opportunities for both the tech and auto sectors.

According to commentators, arbitration, which was a private process to settle disputes, could serve to keep the battle out of the public eye.

Court documents filed by Uber Technologies yesterday showed that Waymo sought arbitration on 28 October for two claims against its former employee, engineer Anthony Levandowski. The claims contained allegations that Levandowski used confidential information to recruit co-workers to his new rival company, according to court records.

Levandowski, had worked for a long time in Google's self-driving division, which later became Waymo. He went on to co-found Otto, an autonomous driving startup later acquired by Uber.

Uber had been seeking arbitration for high-profile cases, arguing that Waymo's allegations against Uber are "inextricably bound up" with Levandowski's employment agreement with Waymo. Uber said the revelation that Waymo itself sought arbitration bolstered its own case for arbitration.

In private arbitration in October, Waymo sought settlement of claims against Anthony Levandowski for violating his contract's confidentiality obligations and improperly recruiting colleagues for his own robocar venture, according to the court filing.

According to commentators, the court fight had intensified Alphabet's rivalry with Uber, in the burgeoning autonomous-driving arena as tech and auto companies alike competed for skilled engineers.

Both companies believed the robocar market would be worth hundreds of billions or even trillions of dollars a year.