California

Futuristic Aircraft Maker Archer Seeks to Dismiss Competitor's Lawsuit Claiming Theft of Trade Secrets

Archer
  • Archer Aviation wants a judge to dismiss a lawsuit claiming it violated trade secrets to develop electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft.
  • In a brief filed with the U.S. District Court for Northern California, Archer says a lawsuit filed by Wisk Aero is "baseless."

Archer Aviation wants a judge to dismiss a lawsuit claiming it violated trade secrets to develop electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft.

In a brief filed with the U.S. District Court for Northern California, Archer says a lawsuit filed by Wisk Aero has no merit.

"Wisk improperly seeks to interfere with Archer's billion-dollar transactions with this baseless lawsuit and simultaneous media campaign, both launched just after the transactions were announced. That is because while Archer has soared, Wisk is at risk of crashing," according to a brief Archer is filing with the court in response to the Wisk suit. "Despite the breathless innuendo and baseless speculation to which Wisk devotes its entire complaint, Archer's eVTOL aircraft design is not only the best eVTOL aircraft around, it is entirely Archer's design."

The case revolves around the rapidly developing, but still unproven, world of eVTOLs. Multiple companies have raised hundreds of millions of dollars to build electric aircraft designed to carry passengers short distances. While it's unclear when regulators will ultimately certify eVTOLs for commercial service, the British consulting firm IDTechEx estimates the eVTOL market could grow to $14.7 billion over the next two decades.

Archer, which started in 2018, made a big splash in February announcing plans for a $3.8 billion merger with Atlas Crest Investment Corp., special purpose acquisition company. Among those backing the deal was United Airlines, which ordered 200 Archer eVTOLs.

Less than two months later, Wisk Aero sued Archer, alleging the company had access to more than 50 trade secrets after hiring former Wisk employees. Wisk was founded in 2019 through a joint venture backed by Boeing and Kitty Hawk, a start-up created by Alphabet co-founder Larry Page. Wisk has announced plans for an urban air-mobility partnership with Blade that will center around eVTOL aircraft Wisk is developing.

In a motion filed in mid-May seeking an injunction to stop Archer from developing an eVTOL, Wisk attorneys wrote: "The similarities between the two companies' designs could not have been a coincidence or the result of independent development by Archer."

Archer's attorneys say Wisk's claims don't add up. In its brief, Archer argues, "there is not a shred of evidence that Archer ever used, or even was aware of, any Wisk trade secret. Despite its 73 pages and over 200 paragraphs, Wisk's complaint does not even specifically identify a single Wisk trade secret, let alone any trade secret ever used by Archer."

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