Judge dismisses Wisk Aero’s efforts to stop rival air taxi startup Archer from using ‘stolen’ patents

A San Francisco federal judge has dismissed air taxi startup Wisk Aero’s request for a preliminary injunction against rival startup Archer Aviation, amid Silicon’s first major “flying car” legal drama Valley is intensifying.

Wisk, a joint venture between Boeing and Kitty Hawk, wanted to prevent Archer Aviation from using any of the 52 trade secrets that were allegedly stolen. Wisk is also asking Archer for unspecified monetary damages in a lawsuit that was filed on April 6. Federal investigators are also investigating the case.

In his decision, United States District Court Judge William Orrick wrote that Wisk’s claim was “too uncertain and equivocal”, although he acknowledged that there were “questionable indications of misappropriation ”.

Archer celebrated the decision by calling Wisk’s trial baseless. “The record makes it clear that Wisk has provided no evidence – not a single document, not a single witness – that Archer ever received or used a trade secret from Wisk,” Archer deputy general counsel said, Eric Lentell in A declaration. “Wisk’s massive theft charges are based entirely on conspiracy theories and outright misrepresentation of the real record.”

Archer says the evidence presented in the case will prove that his 12-rotor, battery-powered Maker aircraft was designed “independently and well before any effort by Wisk to develop a similar eVTOL.” [electric vertical and takeoff] plane. ”Archer officially unveiled his demo plane at an event in Los Angeles last month.

In his lawsuit, Wisk alleged that former employee Jing Xue mistakenly downloaded nearly 5,000 data files to a personal device that he subsequently gave to Archer after joining the company in January 2020. Lentell claims that Wisk is trying to slander Xue as Secret Theft. But when questioned in court about the records, Xue argued the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination, citing the federal investigation into the case. Archer put Xue on administrative leave.

Image: Wisk.aero

Despite the setback, Wisk says he intends to take his lawsuit to a jury trial. “We are at the very beginning of a long legal process,” a spokesperson told A declaration, “with extensive evidence gathering now to begin, and we fully intend to hold Archer accountable at trial.”

Archer was founded by Adam Goldstein and Brett Adcock, co-founders of Vettery, a software-as-a-service marketing company, which the two sold to Swiss recruiting firm Adecco Group in 2018 for $ 100 million. The company emerged from stealth in the spring of 2020 after poaching 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 maintains that Archer not only stole talent, he also stole trade secrets. Wisk accused Archer of hijacking “thousands of highly confidential files containing very valuable trade secrets, as well as the use of important innovations patented by Wisk.”

Air taxis, sometimes mistakenly identified as “flying cars”, are essentially helicopters without the noisy and polluting gasoline engines. Many startups have emerged in recent years with prototypes of electrically powered airplanes, capable of carrying a handful of passengers, and intended for short flights in town or in the region. Analysts predict that the flying taxi market could reach $ 150 billion in revenue by 2035.

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