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Uber has been accused of operating a sophisticated unit dedicated to gathering competitive intelligence and “stealing trade secrets” in fresh allegations that led the judge to delay a high-profile trial between the ride-hailing group and Alphabet’s self-driving unit, Waymo.
The new testimony offered in court during a pre-trial hearing on the $1.8bn lawsuit on Tuesday came after the judge was sent a letter from the US attorney’s office alleging that details about the unit had been withheld as evidence in the case.
The judge presiding over the lawsuit between Waymo and Uber has postponed the trial after a letter was sent to him from the US attorney which he believes sheds new light on the case.
The new development comes at a sensitive time for Uber, which is in the middle of a complex investment deal with a SoftBank-led consortium.
The letter — written by Uber’s former manager of global intelligence, Richard Jacobs, to Uber’s general counsel in May — alleges that Uber engaged in aggressive competitive intelligence practices.
Mr Jacobs testified that these tactics included acquiring portions of competitors’ software code and gathering information about competitors’ drivers.
“If true, [the letter] would contradict a lot of things that Morrison Foerster and a lot of lawyers seated at the table have represented to me,” said Judge William Alsup.
Mr Jacobs also described how Uber allegedly worked to cover its tracks. “There was legal training around the use of attorney client privilege markings on written materials, and the implementation of encrypted and ephemeral communications, intended to both protect and destroy communications that might be considered sensitive,” he said. Employees were instructed to make phone or video calls for anything sensitive, and only use email as a last resort, he added.
Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The case continues.