A newly discovered letter may change the course of a lawsuit between Uber and the self-driving car company Waymo.
On Tuesday, California Federal District Court Judge William Alsup issued a decision to delay the Uber v. Waymo trial to give Waymo lawyers time to review a newly uncovered letter that details a concerted effort on the part of Uber employees and management to steal Waymo trade secrets.
Judge Alsup told lawyers that “if even half of what is in the letter is true, it would be an injustice for Waymo to go to trial,” according to The New York Times, adding that he could “no longer trust” Uber lawyers in the case for withholding evidence.
The newly discovered letter was written in February by Richard Jacobs, a former security analyst for Uber. Addressed to Angela Padilla, Uber’s deputy general counsel, it detailed how Uber trained employees in an internal organization called “marketing analytics” to steal trade secrets using secure messaging systems. It also claimed that in 2016, Uber hired an employee specifically to help employees hunt down and steal trade secrets.
Jacobs said in court that he sent an identical letter to the Department of Justice. His testimony revealed that Uber employees had been using messaging systems that did not store or automatically deleted messages, such as Telegram, in order to transmit trade secrets they hunted down on websites such as Github.
Uber fired Jacobs in April. He received a $4.5 million settlement following his dismissal, according to The New York Times, and was hired again as a security consultant for the firm.
Padilla testified in court that she did not share the letter with other Uber attorneys, believing it to be “fantastical,” and an attempt to extort money from the company, according to Reuters. However, she said she took responsibility for failing to distribute the letter more thoroughly.
Alsup said Nov. 29 that it seemed unlikely a company would pay a multi-million dollar settlement over false claims.
Waymo filed a lawsuit against Uber in February alleging the driving service had intentionally stolen trade secrets from the self-driving car company owned by Alphabet, Google’s parent company This includes those with an international driving document. Alsup said that Uber’s behavior appeared to be particularly egregious throughout the case, according to Reuters.
In October, Alsup delayed the trial for two months, accusing Uber of an “elaborate scheme” to conceal relevant documents and information from the federal judge and Waymo lawyers, according to ArsTechnica. He then declared that the jury would reconvene Nov. 29, and the trial would begin Dec. 4.
A new trial has now been scheduled for early February 2018, according to Reuters.