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Alphabet’s lawsuit against Uber will go to trial

The judge has also referred the case to the U.S. Attorney, which means Uber could face criminal charges.

Two self-driving cars, one from Way and one from Uber Waymo, Uber

Alphabet’s lawsuit against Uber alleging theft of trade secrets from its self-driving efforts is going to trial — and in a twist, Uber could potentially face criminal charges.

Judge William Alsup in San Francisco has issued an order denying Uber’s request for arbitration with Alphabet self-driving subsidiary Waymo.

He also issued another order referring the case to the U.S. Attorney for investigation of possible theft of trade secrets by Uber, though it is not clear whether the U.S. Attorney will accept the case.

“The Court takes no position on whether a prosecution is or is not warranted, a decision entirely up to the United States Attorney,” Alsup wrote in the second order.

Uber had argued for the case to go to arbitration on grounds that Alphabet’s case against Uber was based on a former Alphabet employee’s violation of his employee agreement.

Alphabet, Google’s parent company, claims that Uber’s self-driving head at the center of the case, Anthony Levandowski, stole 14,000 files from Alphabet, where he worked on self-driving technology. He left Alphabet in January 2016 to launch autonomous truck startup Otto. Uber acquired Otto in August.

“It is unfortunate that Waymo will be permitted to avoid abiding by the arbitration promise it requires its employees to make. We remain confident in our case and welcome the chance to talk about our independently developed technology in any forum,” Uber said in a statement about the order denying arbitration.

But the decision of Alphabet “to bring separate claims against defendants in court was not only reasonable but also the only course available, since Waymo had no arbitration agreement with defendants,” wrote Alsup in his order.

“This was a desperate bid by Uber to avoid the court’s jurisdiction. We welcome the court’s decision today, and we look forward to holding Uber responsible in court for its misconduct,” Alphabet said in a statement.

Neither Alphabet nor Uber has commented on the referral of the case to the U.S. Attorney.

If the U.S. Attorney takes the case, it won’t be Uber’s first brush with a federal inquiry. The Justice Department has apparently opened an investigation into Uber’s use of a software the company internally called “Greyball” that helped Uber evade regulators and law enforcement officials.


This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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