Judge dismisses Wisk Aero’s attempt to stop rival air taxi startup Archer from using ‘stolen’ patents
A federal judge in San Francisco rejected Wisk Aero’s request for a preliminary injunction against rival startup Archer Aviation as Silicon Valley’s first major legal drama flares up.
Wisk, a joint venture between Boeing and Kitty Hawk, wanted to prevent Archer Aviation from using any of the 52 trade secrets allegedly stolen. Wisk is also seeking unspecified monetary damages from Archer in a lawsuit filed on April 6. Federal investigators are also investigating the case.
In its ruling, U.S. District Court William Orrick wrote that Wisk’s request was “too uncertain and ambiguous,” although he acknowledged there were “some questionable evidence of embezzlement.”
Archer celebrated the ruling by labeling Wisk’s lawsuit as unfounded. “The file makes it clear that Wisk has provided no evidence — no document, no witness — that Archer ever received or used a trade secret from Wisk,” said Archer’s deputy general counsel, Eric Lentell. a statement. “Wisk’s allegations of mass theft are based entirely on conspiracy theories and outright misrepresentations of the actual record.”
Archer claims the evidence introduced in the case will prove that its 12-rotor, battery-powered Maker aircraft was designed “independently, and well ahead of any attempt by Wisk to develop a comparable eVTOL.” [electric vertical and takeoff] airplanes.” Archer officially unveiled his demonstration aircraft at an event in Los Angeles last month.
In his lawsuit, Wisk alleged that former employee Jing Xue inappropriately downloaded nearly 5,000 data files onto a personal device that he then gave to Archer after joining the company in January 2020. Lentell claims that Wisk is trying to defame Xue as the “poster child of the covert theft.” But when questioned in court about the files, Xue argued the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination, citing the federal investigation into the case, Archer has placed Xue on administrative leave.
Despite the setback, Wisk says he plans to take the lawsuit all the way to a jury trial. “We are in the very early stages of a long legal process,” a spokesperson said a statement“We are now in the process of gathering in-depth evidence, and we fully intend to hold Archer accountable during the trial.”
Archer was founded by Adam Goldstein and Brett Adcock, co-founders of Vettery, a marketing software-as-a-service company, which sold the two to Swiss-based staffing agency Adecco Group in 2018 for $100 million. The company emerged from stealth in the spring of 2020 after it snatched key talent from Wisk, which is jointly owned by Boeing and Kitty Hawk, the flying taxi company funded by Google co-founder Larry Page.
But Wisk argues that Archer stole not only talent, but also trade secrets. Wisk has accused Archer of embezzling “thousands of highly confidential files containing highly valuable trade secrets, as well as using key innovations that Wisk has patented.”
Air taxis, sometimes mistakenly identified as “flying cars,” are essentially helicopters without the noisy, polluting gas engines. In recent years, a number of startups have sprung up with prototype aircraft that are electrically powered, can carry a handful of passengers and are intended for short flights within a city or regional. Analysts predict that the flying taxi market could grow to $150 billion in revenue by 2035.