Uber can depose Alphabet CEO Larry Page in Waymo suit

Judge rules lawyers for Uber get up to four hours to question Page, the latest in an ongoing legal drama between Alphabet's self-driving unit and the ride-sharing company.

Terry Collins Staff Reporter, CNET News
Terry writes about social networking giants and legal issues in Silicon Valley for CNET News. He joined CNET News from the Associated Press, where he spent the six years covering major breaking news in the San Francisco Bay Area. Before the AP, Terry worked at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis and the Kansas City Star. Terry's a native of Chicago.
Terry Collins
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A judge says Uber lawyers can formally question Alphabet CEO Larry Page.

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Uber will get to depose Alphabet CEO Larry Page under oath, the latest twist in a legal drama between Waymo and the ride-sharing company. 

A US magistrate judge ruled Friday that Uber's lawyers will get to question Page and possibly David Drummond, Alphabet's chief legal officer and former Uber board member, as part of Alphabet-owned Waymo's suit accusing Uber of stealing trade secrets. Waymo is the self-driving car unit of Google's parent company. Depositions take place before trial outside of a courtroom.

"Larry Page has first-hand non-repetitive knowledge of relevant facts," US Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley said in her ruling. "Further, less intrusive means, such as interrogatories, are not sufficient." 

The ruling came on the same day Waymo dropped three of its four patent infringement claims. Waymo is suing Uber alleging former Waymo employee, Anthony Levandowski, downloaded approximately 14,000 confidential Waymo files before leaving to go work for Uber. 

Uber fired Levandowski in May after a judge barred him from working on projects related to the lawsuit.

Waymo has claimed that depositions of Google and Alphabet executives weren't necessary given that the execs have "limited availability." Waymo also added it has no "current intent" to call Page as a witness during trial.

However, Corley notes that Waymo isn't ruling out calling Page to testify in trial. Page may take the stand to discuss prior talks he had with then Uber CEO Travis Kalanick about a potential self-driving partnership. 

Uber's lawyers can take Page's deposition for up to four hours, Corley said. The judge ruled that Uber also has a right to depose Drummond, unless Waymo agrees that he won't be testifying at all.

Uber declined to comment Monday on the ruling.

A Google representative said Monday that there's still "evidence showing stolen Waymo files" made their way into Uber's technology.

"And, despite Uber's attempts to distract with constantly changing story lines, Waymo has continued to build its case with more evidence uncovered during expedited discovery," the representative said in a statement. "We look forward to sharing this evidence in court."

First published July 10, 1:52 p.m. PT.
Update, 4:24 p.m.: Adds comments from a Google spokesperson.

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