King Mohammed VI Presides over Presentation of Two Moroccan-Made Cars

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI presides over the unveiling of the vehicles. (MAP)
Morocco’s King Mohammed VI presides over the unveiling of the vehicles. (MAP)
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King Mohammed VI Presides over Presentation of Two Moroccan-Made Cars

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI presides over the unveiling of the vehicles. (MAP)
Morocco’s King Mohammed VI presides over the unveiling of the vehicles. (MAP)

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI presided on Monday over the presentation ceremony of a model of the first Moroccan car brand and a hydrogen-powered vehicle prototype. The event was held at the Royal Palace in Rabat.

The projects, developed by Moroccan entrepreneurs, will strengthen the “Made in Morocco” label and establish the country as a competitive hub for automotive production.

Neo Motors has set up an industrial factory in Ain Aouda, southeast of the capital, to manufacture vehicles for the local market and for export, reported the MAP state news agency.

The factory is projected to produce 27,000 cars a year and create 580 jobs. Investment in the project is worth 156 million dirhams ($15.6 million).

In February 2023, the National Agency for Road Safety granted final approval for Neo Motors’ first vehicle. The company launched pre-production, with the plant’s inauguration scheduled for June 2023.

Neo Motors CEO Nassim Belkhayat said the newly unveiled car operates on benzine and is available with three doors, noting that it is the outcome of “the work of an enthusiastic team”.

The vehicle will be sold in the Moroccan market for prices ranging between 170,000-190,000 dirhams ($17,000-$19,000).

The prototype of the hydrogen vehicle, NamX, was designed in collaboration with Italian car design firm and coachbuilder, Pininfarina.

The HUV model will be supplied with hydrogen through a central tank that will be completed by six removable capsules, guaranteeing a battery capacity of up to 800 km and facilitating the hydrogen recharge in a few minutes.

The production of the car will start in late 2026 and will be sold in Morocco and exported to Europe and the US.

On the sidelines of the ceremony, King Mohammed VI honored Belkhayat and NamX President Faouzi Annajah with a medal of intellectual merit.

The ceremony was attended by Minister of Industry and Trade Riad Mazour, who expressed the country’s pride in its latest car innovation.



Ineos Drives towards Hydrogen Car Future

An Ineos hydrogen-fuelled Grenadier car is driven on a test track during a 'Roadmap to Decarbonisation' event. Adrian DENNIS / AFP
An Ineos hydrogen-fuelled Grenadier car is driven on a test track during a 'Roadmap to Decarbonisation' event. Adrian DENNIS / AFP
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Ineos Drives towards Hydrogen Car Future

An Ineos hydrogen-fuelled Grenadier car is driven on a test track during a 'Roadmap to Decarbonisation' event. Adrian DENNIS / AFP
An Ineos hydrogen-fuelled Grenadier car is driven on a test track during a 'Roadmap to Decarbonisation' event. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

At a sprawling vehicle test center in the English countryside, a hydrogen-powered Grenadier 4x4 made by Ineos Automotive grips steep and rugged tracks, showcasing its off-road capabilities.
Making the demonstrator car was "a really obvious thing" to do, the company's chief executive Lynn Calder told journalists at the unveiling this week, AFP reported.
The young, fast-expanding company is part of petrochemicals giant and hydrogen producer Ineos, run by British billionaire and Manchester United stakeholder Jim Ratcliffe.
"When we embarked upon the demonstrator project, we saw the opportunity to showcase... that we have a completely uncompromised Grenadier in net zero form," she said at the event called "Road to Decarbonisation".
'Not this decade'
Calder cautioned it would be some time before the car was available to buy amid a limited offering of other hydrogen-powered vehicles that are helping drive a path towards net zero carbon emissions.
Ineos cites the high cost of extracting the Earth's most abundant element and a lack of hydrogen refueling stations, especially in the UK, as obstacles to the development of cars deemed greener than popular electric vehicles (EVs).
Is the car "for tomorrow? No because there isn't infrastructure there", Calder said.
"We will keep it warm, we'll continue to talk about it, we will see it as part of the future but it doesn't feel like it's this decade," she added.
Calder spoke from the UTAC vehicle test center in Millbrook, a village north of London, where the hydrogen-powered vehicle quietly navigated dusty sharp bends and other obstacles.
Hydrogen cars work thanks to the cleanest form of the gas combining with oxygen in a fuel cell to generate electricity. The only waste emitted is water vapor.
Hydrogen-powered buses, cars, trucks and vans are all on the market, made by a small number of companies including Hyundai, Renault, Toyota and Vauxhall.
With governments pressuring the auto sector to go green, Ineos Automotive plans to launch an electric 4x4 in 2027, the Fusilier, to be sold alongside current diesel and petrol versions of the Grenadier.
Speaking against the din of sports cars speeding in the distance, Calder hit out at the UK government's goal of banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2035.
'Pipe dream plan'
"I don't think it works, I don't think it's achievable, I think we will fail," she predicted, even after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pushed back the original 2030 date.
The Scottish CEO called it a "pipe dream plan with no strategy around it, no idea how we're going to get there".
Responding, the Department for Transport said a number of incentives were on offer to enable the transition away from polluting vehicles.
It added that demand for EVs was "high", even if recent data shows evidence of slowing sales in the UK and abroad.
Regarding infrastructure, "there are over 61,000 public chargepoints across the UK -- an increase of 44 percent since this time last year", a department spokesperson told AFP.
According to consultants LBST, only 921 hydrogen refueling stations were in operation worldwide at the end of last year.
China was out in front with around 200 stations, or about double the amount in European leader Germany.
The UK currently has just six, even if hydrogen vehicles can offer a longer journey range and are faster at refueling than electric rivals.
Election impact
The country's road to net zero is clouded somewhat by the outcome of this year's general election.
Polls widely suggest that Sunak's Conservatives will lose power to the main opposition Labour Party.
Labour's plans for emissions targets have been called into question after leader Keir Starmer ditched its flagship commitment to spend £28 billion ($35.5 billion) a year on green infrastructure if in power.
Greenpeace UK's senior transport campaigner, Paul Morozzo, called on the next government to reinstate the 2030 ban and increase tax on polluting vehicles.
He added that it must "get on with delivering a proper network of EV charging points all across the country and get the transition to EVs back on the road".
As for hydrogen, with so little infrastructure, the fuel "isn't viable or desirable for mass transit" at the current time, he told AFP.


Reddit Stock Jumps after OpenAI Partnership

Reddit app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration taken, July 13, 2021. (Reuters)
Reddit app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration taken, July 13, 2021. (Reuters)
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Reddit Stock Jumps after OpenAI Partnership

Reddit app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration taken, July 13, 2021. (Reuters)
Reddit app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration taken, July 13, 2021. (Reuters)

Shares of Reddit rose nearly 15% on Friday, following a partnership with artificial intelligence firm OpenAI that is expected to boost advertising income for the social media platform.

The jump pushed the stock up at $64.80, within striking distance of the record closing price of $65.11 hit in late-March, and added $1.38 billion to the company's market value.

The partnership, announced on Thursday, allows Reddit to leverage OpenAI's technology to build tools and features, and OpenAI's ChatGPT platform to integrate Reddit's content in a "real-time, structured" manner. OpenAI will also become an advertising partner for Reddit.

The deal could yield more than $50 million to $60 million annually for Reddit, Piper Sandler lead analyst Thomas Champion said in a note on Friday.

More than half the analysts covering the stock have a "buy" or higher rating, with a median price of $63.

The deal delivers on Reddit's "IPO promise of seizing opportunities to make more of AI," said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

The company's shares have gained more than 90% since their debut in March at $34 a piece.

In a February filing, the company indicated its intentions to explore new monetization channels beyond advertising revenue, including offering creator tools and licensing its data to third parties.

Reddit already has data licensing agreements with undisclosed firms that are projected to contribute at least $66.4 million in revenue this year. The license allows third parties to access, search, and analyze data on the platform.

The deal comes amidst a growing number of lawsuits against OpenAI, with firms alleging unauthorized use of their content for training large language models.

In recent months, OpenAI has also secured content licensing deals with several publishers, including the Associated Press and the Financial Times.


Nigeria Court Rules Binance Executive Can Face Trial on Behalf of Crypto Exchange

Nigeria Court Rules Binance Executive Can Face Trial on Behalf of Crypto Exchange
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Nigeria Court Rules Binance Executive Can Face Trial on Behalf of Crypto Exchange

Nigeria Court Rules Binance Executive Can Face Trial on Behalf of Crypto Exchange

A Nigerian court on Friday ruled that Binance executive Tigran Gambaryan can stand trial on behalf of the cryptocurrency exchange in an ongoing tax evasion case.

Binance and executives Gambaryan, a US citizen and head of financial crimes compliance, and British-Kenyan national Nadeem Anjarwalla, a regional manager for Africa, face four counts of tax evasion.

In a separate case, they have also been charged with laundering more than $35 million and engaging in specialised financial activities without a licence. They have all pleaded not guilty to the money laundering charges.

Binance's lawyer declined to comment after Friday's court hearing. Gambaryan's lawyer also had no comment, Reuters reported.

Gambaryan remains in custody while Anjarwalla fled the country in March. Nigeria's security adviser's office has said it is working with Interpol to seek Anjarwalla's arrest.

The CEO of Binance has accused Nigeria of setting a dangerous precedent after its executives were invited to the African country in February for talks with authorities and then detained as part of a crackdown on crypto.

Binance itself has not been charged in the tax evasion case by Nigeria's Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), which has said Gambaryan could face the charges on the exchange's behalf.

Gambaryan's lawyer has previously said Gambaryan was "neither a director, partner nor company secretary" and had no written instructions from Binance to face the charges on its behalf.

Judge Emeka Nwite ruled on Friday that Gambaryan should be served with the charges against Binance because he is the chief financial compliance officer of Binance and he was duly appointed to represent it in a meeting in Nigeria.

Gambaryan will be arraigned in court on Wednesday to take a plea on behalf of Binance.

Gambaryan's bail application in relation to the money laundering case was denied on Friday.

Nigeria has blamed Binance for its currency woes after cryptocurrency websites emerged as platforms of choice for trading the Nigerian naira currency, as the country grappled with chronic dollar shortages.


UK's CMA Rejects Probe into Microsoft-Mistral AI Tie-up

UK's CMA Rejects Probe into Microsoft-Mistral AI Tie-up
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UK's CMA Rejects Probe into Microsoft-Mistral AI Tie-up

UK's CMA Rejects Probe into Microsoft-Mistral AI Tie-up

Britain's competition watchdog said on Friday it would not investigate the partnership between Microsoft and Mistral AI, weeks after it invited views on the tie-up.

In February, Microsoft invested $16 million in Mistral AI, partnering to make the French start-up's artificial intelligence models available through its Azure platform. It has also invested in ChatGPT owner OpenAI.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said the Mistral partnership did not qualify for investigation under Britain's merger regulations. "The CMA has considered information submitted by Microsoft and Mistral AI, together with feedback received in response to its invitation to comment," a CMA spokesperson said, Reuters reported.

"Based on the evidence, the CMA does not believe that Microsoft has acquired material influence over Mistral AI as a result of the partnership and therefore does not qualify for investigation."

The CMA in April sought comments on the partnership, as well as separate links between Microsoft and Inflection AI and a tie-up between Amazon and Anthropic.

A Microsoft spokesperson said: "Investment and partnership are essential to new players in the AI economy.

"We welcome the CMA's determination that our fractional investment and partnership with Mistral AI does not qualify as a merger or acquisition."

European Union antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager, who has been looking into Big Tech's partnerships with AI start-ups, met Mistral AI last month. "We need vibrant competition in AI, now," she wrote on X after the meeting.


Technology Leads European Shares Lower

Rate-sensitive technology and real estate were the worst-hit sectors, down 0.7% each. (File/AFP)
Rate-sensitive technology and real estate were the worst-hit sectors, down 0.7% each. (File/AFP)
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Technology Leads European Shares Lower

Rate-sensitive technology and real estate were the worst-hit sectors, down 0.7% each. (File/AFP)
Rate-sensitive technology and real estate were the worst-hit sectors, down 0.7% each. (File/AFP)

European shares kicked off Friday's trade on a weaker note, led by declines in technology and real-estate companies, as investors looked forward to euro zone inflation data for some clarity on the path for interest rate cuts beyond June.

The pan-European STOXX 600 dipped 0.2% as of 0715 GMT, but was on track for its second straight weekly advance owing to a robust corporate earnings season.

All eyes are on the final euro zone inflation reading later in the day, after a report showed European Central Bank board member Isabel Schnabel advocated caution about further rate cuts after a likely first one in June.

Rate-sensitive technology and real estate were the worst-hit sectors, down 0.7% each, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, personal and household goods led sectoral gains, with luxury group Richemont climbing 6% after quarterly results.

H&M rose 2.5% after RBC upgraded the fashion retailer to "outperform" from "sector perform".

French re-insurer Scor dropped 8.0% after first-quarter results.

Nibe lost 4.6% after Citigroup downgraded the Swedish heat-pump maker to "neutral" from "buy", while German utility E.ON lost 4.1% on trading ex-dividend.


CoreWeave Raises $7.5 billion Debt from Blackstone, Others

CoreWeave Raises $7.5 billion Debt from Blackstone, Others
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CoreWeave Raises $7.5 billion Debt from Blackstone, Others

CoreWeave Raises $7.5 billion Debt from Blackstone, Others

Specialized cloud services provider CoreWeave is raising $7.5 billion in debt from financiers led by Blackstone and Magnetar to expand its infrastructure to meet rising artificial intelligence (AI) workloads, it said on Friday.

The deal is one of the largest debt financing rounds for a startup and adds firepower to CoreWeave's balance sheet as it looks to expand its cloud computing services to more customers, Reuters reported.

The Nvidia-backed company has raised more than $12 billion in equity and debt investments over the past 12 months, including a $1.1 billion series C investment led by private equity firm Coatue earlier this month.

"The caliber of investors in this large debt financing round is a powerful testament to ... the insatiable market appetite for AI infrastructure," CEO and co-founder Michael Intrator said in a statement.

Coatue, Carlyle, CDPQ, DigitalBridge Credit, funds managed by BlackRock, Eldridge Industries and Great Elm Capital Corp were also part of CoreWeave's latest debt raise.

CoreWeave has seen a boost from businesses rapidly adopting generative AI technology. It has partnerships with AI startups and competing cloud providers to build clusters to power AI workloads.


Microsoft Offers Cloud Customers AMD Alternative to Nvidia AI Processors 

A view shows a Microsoft logo at Microsoft offices in Issy-les-Moulineaux near Paris, France, March 25, 2024. (Reuters)
A view shows a Microsoft logo at Microsoft offices in Issy-les-Moulineaux near Paris, France, March 25, 2024. (Reuters)
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Microsoft Offers Cloud Customers AMD Alternative to Nvidia AI Processors 

A view shows a Microsoft logo at Microsoft offices in Issy-les-Moulineaux near Paris, France, March 25, 2024. (Reuters)
A view shows a Microsoft logo at Microsoft offices in Issy-les-Moulineaux near Paris, France, March 25, 2024. (Reuters)

Microsoft said on Thursday it plans to offer its cloud computing customers a platform of AMD artificial intelligence chips that will compete with components made by Nvidia, with details to be given at its Build developer conference next week.

It will also launch a preview of new Cobalt 100 custom processors at the conference.

Microsoft's clusters of Advanced Micro Devices' flagship MI300X AI chips will be sold through its Azure cloud computing service. They will give its customers an alternative to Nvidia's H100 family of powerful graphics processing units (GPUs) which dominate the data center chip market for AI but can be hard to obtain due to high demand.

To build AI models or run applications, companies typically must string together - or cluster - multiple GPUs because the data and computation will not fit on a single processor.

AMD, which expects $4 billion in AI chip revenue this year, has said the chips are powerful enough to train and run large AI models.

As well as Nvidia's top-shelf AI chips, Microsoft's cloud computing unit sells access to its own in-house AI chips called Maia.

Separately, the Cobalt 100 processors Microsoft plans to preview next week offer 40% better performance over other processors based on Arm Holdings' technology, the company said. Snowflake and others have begun to use them.

The Cobalt chips, which were announced in November, are being tested to power Teams, Microsoft's messaging tool for businesses, and positioned to compete with the in-house Graviton CPUs made by Amazon.com.


Video Game Maker Ubisoft Swings to Full-Year Operating Profit on Record Bookings

A view of the Ubisoft Entertainment logo on a panel during a news conference at the company's headquarters in Saint-Mande, near Paris, France, September 8, 2022. (Reuters)
A view of the Ubisoft Entertainment logo on a panel during a news conference at the company's headquarters in Saint-Mande, near Paris, France, September 8, 2022. (Reuters)
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Video Game Maker Ubisoft Swings to Full-Year Operating Profit on Record Bookings

A view of the Ubisoft Entertainment logo on a panel during a news conference at the company's headquarters in Saint-Mande, near Paris, France, September 8, 2022. (Reuters)
A view of the Ubisoft Entertainment logo on a panel during a news conference at the company's headquarters in Saint-Mande, near Paris, France, September 8, 2022. (Reuters)

French video games group Ubisoft swung to an operating profit for its full-year to end-March, it said on Wednesday, as record bookings helped it reverse a year earlier loss of 500 million euros, its biggest ever.

Ubisoft's full-year net bookings jumped 33.5% to 2.31 billion euros, on a non-IFRS operating income of 401.5 million euros ($435.35 million).

"Our full-year 2024 results confirm that Ubisoft is back on track on its profitable growth trajectory, with record annual and fourth quarter net bookings", CEO Yves Guillemot said in a statement.

During the year, the company reported strong growth in both the "Rainbow Six" and "Assassin's Creed" franchises as well as new releases, driving bookings up and compensating for the long-delayed "Skull & Bones" game.

"Skull & Bones", released in February, received poor review scores, among the lowest for any Ubisoft game and was not a big seller, Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter told Reuters.

Skull & Bones got off to a "slightly slower start than expected", Ubisoft CFO Frederick Duguet said during a call with journalists, adding that it still had the second-best daily playtime for a Ubisoft game.

The firm hopes to boost the game's audience and keep players engaged for longer in the first half of its financial year beginning April 1.

To address concerns from Britain's antitrust regulator regarding Microsoft's acquisition of "Call of Duty" maker Activision Blizzard, the latter agreed to sell its streaming rights to Ubisoft.

Ubisoft started receiving payments from Microsoft in the first three months of the year, which have already exceeded the company's initial investment of between 50 million-100 million euros, Duguet said on the call.

For the quarter to come, the company expects net bookings of around 275 million euros.


OpenAI Co-Founder Ilya Sutskever Departs ChatGPT Maker 

The OpenAI logo is displayed on a cell phone with an image on a computer monitor generated by ChatGPT's Dall-E text-to-image model, Dec. 8, 2023, in Boston. (AP)
The OpenAI logo is displayed on a cell phone with an image on a computer monitor generated by ChatGPT's Dall-E text-to-image model, Dec. 8, 2023, in Boston. (AP)
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OpenAI Co-Founder Ilya Sutskever Departs ChatGPT Maker 

The OpenAI logo is displayed on a cell phone with an image on a computer monitor generated by ChatGPT's Dall-E text-to-image model, Dec. 8, 2023, in Boston. (AP)
The OpenAI logo is displayed on a cell phone with an image on a computer monitor generated by ChatGPT's Dall-E text-to-image model, Dec. 8, 2023, in Boston. (AP)

OpenAI co-founder and chief scientist Ilya Sutskever is leaving the startup at the center of today's artificial intelligence boom.

"OpenAI would not be what it is without him," OpenAI CEO Sam Altman wrote in a message to the company, which OpenAI posted on its blog.

Microsoft-backed OpenAI makes the popular ChatGPT chatbot, which sparked a race among the world's largest tech companies for dominance in the emerging generative AI field.

Jakub Pachocki will be the company's new chief scientist, the company said on its blog.

Pachocki has previously served as OpenAI's director of research and led the development of GPT-4 and OpenAI Five.

"After almost a decade, I have made the decision to leave OpenAI," Sutskever said in a post on X.

Sutskever posted that he is working on a new project "that is very personally meaningful to me about which I will share details in due time."

Sutskever played a key role in Altman's dramatic firing and rehiring in November last year. At the time, Sutskever was on the board of OpenAI and helped to orchestrate Altman's firing.

Days later, he reversed course, signing onto an employee letter demanding Altman's return and expressing regret for his "participation in the board's actions."

After Altman returned, Sutskever was removed from the board and his position at the company became unclear.

Sutskever's exit comes a day after the company said at an event on Monday that it would release a new AI model called GPT-4o, capable of realistic voice conversation and able to interact across texts and images.

Shortly after launching in late 2022, ChatGPT was called the fastest application ever to reach 100 million monthly active users. However, worldwide traffic to ChatGPT's website has been on a roller-coaster ride in the past year and is only now returning to its May 2023 peak, according to analytics firm Similarweb.

Sutskever has long been a prominent researcher in the AI field. Before founding OpenAI, he worked as a researcher at Google Brain, and was a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford, according to his personal website. He started his career working with Geoffrey Hinton, one of the so-called "godfathers of AI".


Tesla is Sued Over Emissions from California Plant

FILE - A Model X sports-utility vehicle sits outside a Tesla store in Littleton, Colo., on June 18, 2023. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
FILE - A Model X sports-utility vehicle sits outside a Tesla store in Littleton, Colo., on June 18, 2023. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
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Tesla is Sued Over Emissions from California Plant

FILE - A Model X sports-utility vehicle sits outside a Tesla store in Littleton, Colo., on June 18, 2023. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
FILE - A Model X sports-utility vehicle sits outside a Tesla store in Littleton, Colo., on June 18, 2023. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

Tesla has been sued by an environmental nonprofit that accused Elon Musk's electric car company of violating the federal Clean Air Act hundreds of times by letting its Fremont, California, plant emit harmful pollutants.

In a complaint filed on Monday, the Environmental Democracy Project said Tesla has since January 2021 exposed nearby residents and workers to excessive nitrogen oxides, arsenic, cadmium and other harmful chemicals, mainly through its paint shop operations.

The nonprofit wants an injunction to halt excess pollution, plus civil fines of up to $121,275 per day per violation of the Clean Air Act.

Tesla did not immediately respond on Tuesday to requests for comment, Reuters reported.

The lawsuit filed federal court in San Francisco adds to pressure on Tesla to improve air quality surrounding the Fremont plant, its main US factory.

On May 2, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District said it wanted an independent hearing board to order Tesla to reduce harmful emissions from its paint shop operations.

It said that Tesla's emissions abatement system breaks down "repeatedly," and the automaker has since 2019 racked up 112 notices of violation, each accounting for as much as 750 pounds of illegal air pollution.

In February, Tesla agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle a lawsuit by 25 California counties that claimed it mishandled hazardous waste at locations across the state.

The Environmental Democracy Project said it has authority to file a "citizen" lawsuit under the Clean Air Act because Tesla "has violated or in violation of conditions imposed by an operating permit for major sources of pollution."

Lawyers for the nonprofit did not immediately respond to requests for additional comment.

The case is Environmental Democracy Project v Tesla Inc et al, US District Court, Northern District of California, No. 24-02888.