Google had already quietly sued Uber’s head of self-driving vehicles, Anthony Levandowski, months before it filed its bombshell lawsuit against the ride-hailing company, according to new court filing.
Google filed two arbitration demands on October 28 against Levandowski, months before it sued Uber in federal court. In the demands, Google alleged that Levandowski had used confidential employee salary information to poach its employees to both Uber and Otto. The arbitration is still ongoing.
Uber is now using the earlier arbitration demands as evidence that its current lawsuit should be moved to arbitration because so much of Google’s case against Uber is centered around the actions Levandowski allegedly took as an employee.
In February, Waymo, the self-driving company owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, sued Uber, claiming that Levandowski stole vital Lidar technology shortly before starting his own self-driving company (which Uber later acquired). The trade secrets case is shaping up to be one of the most significant and closely-watched battles in Silicon Valley in years, pitting two of the world’s most powerful companies, and former partners, against each other.
Waymo did not name Levandowski in its lawsuit to specifically avoid this issue, Uber argues in its motion to compel arbitration. Yet, the ride-hailing company thinks Google’s employment contract language is so broad that a lawsuit related to an employee’s practices would compel arbitration.
Google’s Waymo didn’t immediately respond to request for comment. Uber declined to comment beyond the filing.