Alphabet CEO Larry Page was thrust into the center of the high-profile legal drama involving Google, Uber and self-driving cars on Tuesday.
At issue is a conversation that Page may, or may not, have had with Anthony Levandowski, the self-driving car pioneer who is accused of taking technology he worked on while at Google and bringing it to Uber.
Lawyers for Uber say they need to talk to Page, to ask him about his conversations with his former employee.
Page was aware that Levandowski had supposedly taken 14,000 files from Google after he left, Uber lawyer Arturo Gonzalez alleged in court on Tuesday. Yet, Uber argues, Page never brought it up in conversations with Levandowski or when he met with Uber's CEO Travis Kalanick in October.
Uber also claims that Page was aware that Levandowski was thinking of joining Uber before Uber acquired Otto, a self-driving truck startup that Levandowski had cofounded.
If true, all of this could weaken Google's claims that Levandowski acted in bad faith.
Just one question
But don't expect to hear much from Page anytime soon.
Lawyers for Waymo, the official name of Google's self-driving car spinout, called Gonzalez's points about the conversations between Page and Levandowski as pure fiction.
"What you just heard your honor is something that was made up in the mind of Mr. Gonzalez," Waymo's lawyers said in court on Tuesday.
And Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley was also skeptical that Uber needed to depose Page about the conversations, given that Uber had failed to give evidence that these conversations happened in the first place.
Instead, Uber will get to ask Page a single, written question.
"I realize I'm giving you an inch when you wanted a mile," Corley said.
Page will have to answer a question about whether or not he had conversations with Levandowski, pre-acquisition, in which Levandowski told Page he was considering going to Uber.
The next week will be crucial for the two parties involved in the trade secrets case that's pitting two of Silicon Valley's giants against each other. On Wednesday, the two will have a settlement conference followed by a hearing about Uber's motion to compel arbitration on Thursday. The following week will be the hearing over the preliminary injunction.
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