Wisk is taking legal action against eVTOL aircraft developer Archer Aviation, alleging Archer’s business is ‘built on intellectual property that is not its own’ and brings claims for trade secret misappropriation and patent infringement.
According to the filing sent to the federal court in the Northern District of California, the lawsuit follows Wisk’s discovery of suspicious file downloads by former employees who left the company to work for Archer, including thousands of files related to Wisk’s confidential aircraft, component and systems designs, manufacturing and test data.
Additionally, Wisk has said Archer’s recent disclosure of an aircraft design appears to be a copy of a design it developed and submitted in a confidential patent application to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in January 2020.
The copied design includes six front rotors that each consist of five blades and can tilt to be positioned either horizontally or vertically, as well as six rear rotors that each consist of two blades and remain fixed in a vertical position. The design also includes an unconventional ‘V’ tail.
Archer’s aircraft disclosure was made in connection with its plan to merge with Atlas Crest Corporation, following its joint SPAC merger earlier this year.
In a blog post by Wisk, which is dated April 6th, it said: “We believe the growth of credible eVTOL players pushes the Urban Air Mobility/Advanced Air Mobility industry forward by spurring innovation, advancing safety and commercialization, and creating a healthy and competitive marketplace.
“It has taken tremendous time, investment, enormous resources, and industry-wide collaboration to create a foundation from which the industry can build trust with the public, the broader aviation industry, regulators, and policy makers.
“High-integrity players that pursue development responsibly, in an environment of healthy, respectful competition, is critical to building this trust and to the ultimate success of the UAM/AAM industry. For these reasons, we welcome all responsible innovation and fair competition in the eVTOL market.
“Unfortunately, and as discussed in the Complaint we filed earlier today, it appears that Archer Aviation, a new entrant in the eVTOL market, is seeking to gain a foothold in this industry without respecting the rules of fair competition. As detailed in the Complaint, we have discovered significant and troubling evidence indicating that Archer has been using Wisk’s proprietary intellectual property without our permission.
“Among other things, we discovered the misappropriation of thousands of highly confidential files containing very valuable trade secrets, as well as the use of significant innovations Wisk has patented. Wisk’s confidential, proprietary trade secrets and patented innovations represent the hard work and dedication of hundreds of Wisk’s engineers over multiple years.
“We took legal action to ask a federal court to stop Archer from using that stolen Wisk technology and from infringing our patents. This isn’t a step we wanted to take, but we must protect our IP and the decade’s worth of work and innovation we’ve put into Wisk.”
Co-founded by Adam Goldstein and Brett Adcock, Archer entered the eVTOL aircraft market in the middle of last year. As well as bringing in team members from Wisk, it also brought in experience from the likes of Airbus and Joby Aviation.
Archer will unveil its first eVTOL aircraft later this year, which will be capable of travelling 60 miles at speeds of 150mph. It plans to begin aircraft production by 2023, with the first flights starting a year later.
Additionally, the company has confirmed Los Angeles and Miami as its first urban air mobility networks in the USA and brought Uber Elevate co-founders Mark Moore and Nikhil Goel onto its Advisory Board.
In response to Wisk’s allegations, a spokesperson for Archer said: “It’s regrettable that Wisk would engage in litigation in an attempt to deflect from the business issues that have caused several of its employees to depart. The plaintiff raised these matters over a year ago, and after looking into them thoroughly, we have no reason to believe any proprietary Wisk technology ever made its way to Archer. We intend to defend ourselves vigorously.”
“Archer has placed an employee on paid administrative leave in connection with a government investigation and a search warrant issued to the employee, which we believe are focused on conduct prior to the employee joining the Company. Archer and three other Archer employees with whom the individual worked also have received subpoenas relating to this investigation, and all are fully cooperating with the authorities.”