The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

Wisk Files New Brief in Case Against eVTOL Rival Archer Regarding Alleged Theft of Trade Secrets

Wisk Aero filed a further brief in support of its motion for a preliminary injunction against rival eVTOL aircraft developer Archer over allegations of intellectual property theft. The company’s legal team made additional filings late on July 14 in which they argued that documents obtained through the disclosure process and via depositions prove that Archer and various employees misappropriated trade secrets for its new eVTOL design “on a massive scale.”

Among the claims in the latest brief is that Archer documents referred to the design for what was to become its Maker technology demonstrator as “Cora + Tilt.” This, argued Wisk’s attorneys, confirms that Archer’s fast-tracked design was based directly on technology already flying in its two-seat Cora model.

Archer strongly refuted the latest claims by Wisk, which also says that a total of four of its former employees “improperly retained” company documents and shared these with their new employer. “These new claims, like those that came before, lack any factual basis and rely on wild speculation and innuendo,” Archer said in a statement issued to media.

The Wisk motion seeking a preliminary injunction against Archer is due to be heard by the federal court for the Northern District of California on July 21. Wisk has requested a jury trial for the wider case, which hinges on its claims that Archer—which was founded in 2018 but didn't start recruiting full-time employees until late 2019—could not have developed the Maker without wrongfully using intellectual property associated with the airframe configuration and electrical propulsion and avionics subsystems for a “sixth-generation” eVTOL design for which Wisk has applied for patents.

However, in a counter-attack court filing on June 23, Archer’s lawyers sought to turn that argument on its head by claiming that Wisk filed the patent applications only after hearing about Archer’s plans from employees whom Archer had approached with offers of employment. Wisk dismissed this argument as a “fairy tale” and poured scorn on Archer’s claims that it had long been developing the Maker design with independent consultant Flighthouse.

Much of the case around alleged theft of trade secrets appears to hinge on former Wisk engineer Jing Xue, who subsequently joined Archer. Wisk’s lawyers this week asked the court to strike out his statements made under oath because he had refused to be deposed, invoking Fifth Amendment rights because of a pending federal criminal investigation in which he is involved. They say that he and three other former Wisk employees have now been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury.

Another key witness is likely to be Wisk senior engineer Geoff Long, who Archer says told his company about its eVTOL designs following a recruitment meeting on Dec. 9, 2019Wisk’s filing points to contemporaneous notes made by Long, who did not join Archer, that it says confirm that he immediately recognized Wisk’s intellectual property in the designs he was shown by his prospective employers.

“The Archer engineering documentation is stunning in its reliance on Wisk’s trade secrets,” the plaintiff's lawyers argued in the July 14 filing.