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Judge's Order Bars Uber Engineer From LiDAR Work, Demands Returns of Stolen Files (arstechnica.com) 43

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A U.S. federal judge has ordered Uber to bar its top self-driving car engineer from any work on LiDAR, and return stolen files to Google's self-driving car unit Waymo. Today's order by U.S. District Judge William Alsup demands Uber do "whatever it can to ensure that its employees return 14,000-plus pilfered files to their rightful owner." The files must be returned by May 31. The order was granted last week, but just made public in an unsealed document this morning. U.S. District Judge William Alsup found that Uber "likely knew or at least should have known" that the man it hired as its top self-driving car engineer, Anthony Levandowski, took and kept more than 14,000 Waymo files. Those files "likely contain at least some trade secrets," making some "provisional relief" for Waymo appropriate. Levandowski has previously asserted his Fifth Amendment rights with respect to his possession of the files. "If Uber were to threaten Levandowski with termination for noncompliance, that threat would be backed up by only Uber's power as a private employer, and Levandowski would remain free to forfeit his private employment to preserve his Fifth Amendment privilege," Alsup wrote. Several factors limit the amount of relief Waymo might receive. First of all, in the judge's view, not all of the 121 elements that Waymo defines as "trade secrets" are really trade secrets. Additionally, the judge has slapped aside Waymo's patent infringement accusations as "meritless."

Judge's Order Bars Uber Engineer From LiDAR Work, Demands Returns of Stolen Files

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  • I guess they should amend it:

    Current: "No tipping of drivers"
    New: "No tipping of drivers nor of the company by newly hired executives"

    I feel no sympathy for that company.

  • Return? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by YuppieScum ( 1096 ) on Monday May 15, 2017 @05:30PM (#54422087) Journal

    Return the files?

    Did the judge really think this guy walked out pushing a trolley loaded with boxes of paperwork?

    Or that he copied all 14,000 to an external HDD, then deleted all the originals and the backups, including all the off-site tapes?

    Or is he so disconnected from contemporary reality that he doesn't know that what constitutes a "file" nowadays is not necessarily the same as when he studied law all those years ago?

    • Re:Return? (Score:5, Informative)

      by captaindomon ( 870655 ) on Monday May 15, 2017 @05:37PM (#54422139)
      It's a legal thing, meaning return any right of using the materials. You'll notice they are also ordered to stop making any further copies, stop using any copies they have made, etc. but they are allowed to keep a copy to use for legal use. I.e. the legal idea of "returning copies" is well understood in legal circles. FYI, IANAL. "2. Defendants must immediately and in writing exercise the full extent of their corporate, employment, contractual, and other authority to (a) prevent Anthony Levandowski and all other officers, directors, employees, and agents of defendants from consulting, copying, or otherwise using the downloaded materials; and (b) cause them to return the downloaded materials and all copies, excerpts, and summaries thereof to Waymo (or the Court) by MAY 31 AT NOON. Copies essential for counsel of record and their litigation experts to use in defending this civil action are exempted from the foregoing requirement.9"
      • Re:Return? (Score:5, Informative)

        by captaindomon ( 870655 ) on Monday May 15, 2017 @05:39PM (#54422153)
        Further: The accounting shall also identify the complete chains of custodians for every copy of any downloaded materials or due diligence report referencing downloaded materials. Defendants must also use the full extent of their authority and influence to obtain cooperation with the foregoing procedure from all involved. For example, if a potential custodian refuses to cooperate, then defendants’ accounting shall set forth the particulars, including all efforts made to obtain cooperation. The accounting must be filed and served by JUNE 23 AT NOON. i.e., the court knows what copying is. This is a problem with the media summarizing.
      • by Nutria ( 679911 )

        Besides all the "prevent ... from consulting, copying, or otherwise using the downloaded materials", it explicitly says, "and (b) cause them to return the downloaded materials ".

    • by Tanman ( 90298 )

      I believe the intent is rather obvious: give Waymo a copy of everything you took and delete your own files. I don't think the judge's name is Hansel (he's so hot right now).

      • by TWX ( 665546 )

        Plus if Uber has to "return" files, then Waymo/Google/Alphabetsoup knows exactly which files are in question and Uber cannot claim ignorance, so if further down the road Uber shows development based on the files then Waymo has grounds for further lawsuits.

    • Not familiar with Judge Alsup? The guy is very technically competent, this looks like more of a legal redress as far as court terminology is concerned.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Return the files?

      Did the judge really think this guy walked out pushing a trolley loaded with boxes of paperwork?

      This particular judge is a lit more tech savvy than most. I suspect his order to "return" the files is intended to put pressure on Uber by leaving them with only 3 possible options, none of them very good:

      1. Continue to deny they have anything and gamble that evidence to the contrary never comes out.

      2. Delete the files and hope they don't get caught destroying evidence.

      3. Hand over the files, proving they had them all along.

    • Re:Return? (Score:4, Informative)

      by DRJlaw ( 946416 ) on Monday May 15, 2017 @05:51PM (#54422257)

      Or is he so disconnected from contemporary reality that he doesn't know that what constitutes a "file" nowadays is not necessarily the same as when he studied law all those years ago?

      If you have to "return" an electronic file to me, it (1) prevents giving some system administrator the bright idea to simply irretrievably delete the file, otherwise called "destroying evidence" or spoliation, which is a big no-no and (2) tells me that you had that file so I no longer have to speculate as to whether you yourself possessed that file or not. Knowing that you definitely had a certain file is valuable information to me.

      Signed,
      A lawyer.

    • "The Death Star plans are not in the main computer."

      "Tear this ship apart until you find those plans!"

  • by ark1 ( 873448 ) on Monday May 15, 2017 @05:32PM (#54422105)
    Once the cat is out of the bag, they can't really have assurance that the files will be "returned" and copies not kept.
    • Re:Return? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by rijrunner ( 263757 ) on Monday May 15, 2017 @05:53PM (#54422265)

      Except, if any are found in the future, it is a criminal, not civil, infraction.

      • An additional note: Anyone following the Prenda Law Saga knows very good and well that Alsup will not hesitate one second to refer criminal cases to the US attorney's office as well as any other ever remotely possible law enforcement group that might be possibly involved.

    • Re:Return? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DRJlaw ( 946416 ) on Monday May 15, 2017 @05:57PM (#54422297)

      Once the cat is out of the bag, they can't really have assurance that the files will be "returned" and copies not kept.

      Philosophically true. Practically false. You would be wise to avoid messing with a Federal judge. Someone will find out. Someone will tell the other side, or the judge, or both. The judge will, in much more businesslike language, announce "JUDGE SMASH."

      Grownups who are not sociopaths and have money at stake will try to avoid this fate. For example, they may fire the person messing with the judge, or simply throw them under the bus.

  • The question Uber should be asking itself right now is, what will Levandowski be taking from them when he leaves...

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