A federal judge in San Francisco has denied Wisk’s request for a preliminary injunction against rival eVTOL OEM Archer.

Wisk filed the motion earlier this year to stop Archer from using its confidential trade secrets ahead of a trial. The company began legal action against Archer last month, alleging its business is ‘built on intellectual property that is not its own’ and brings claims for trade secret misappropriation and patent infringement.

But a ruling by district judge William Orrick said Wisk ‘had not shown a likelihood of success on the merits that defendant Archer Aviation has misappropriated its particular asserted trade secrets.’

It added: “There are some arguable indications of misappropriation but, even if the totality of that evidence raises ‘serious questions going to the merits,’ it is too uncertain and equivocal to support a finding of irreparable injury based on misappropration or that the balance of hardships sharply favours Wisk.”

According to the filing sent to the federal court in the Northern District of California in April, 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.

Wisk’s request for an expedited schedule will be addressed at the Case Management Conference following the hearing on the remaining pending motions on August 11th.

Archer’s Deputy General Counsel, Eric Lentell said: “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 any Wisk trade secret. Wisk’s charges of massive theft are based entirely on conspiracy theories and outright misrepresentations of the actual record.

“Contrary to the story Wisk crafted, the evidence in this case has also made it clear that Archer, with input from its outside expert design consultant, evaluated and selected the 12-tilt-6 design of its Maker demonstrator aircraft independently, and well in advance of any effort by Wisk to develop a similar eVTOL aircraft.”

Responding to the result of the ruling last Thursday, a Wisk spokesperson said: “Today’s decision regarding preliminary relief has no bearing on the outcome of the case and does not exonerate Archer in the least. We are in the very early stages of a long legal process, with in-depth evidence-gathering now to begin, and we fully intend to hold Archer accountable at trial.

“We brought this lawsuit based on strong indications of theft and use of Wisk’s IP, and the initial limited evidence gathered through the court process to date only confirms our belief that Archer’s misappropriation of Wisk’s trade secrets is widespread and pervades Archer’s aircraft development.

“Following today’s ruling, Wisk will be allowed to begin collecting evidence in earnest. We will follow the evidence to where it leads, and stand firm in our years-long commitment to pursuing eVTOL development the right way — guided by innovation, integrity, and trust.

“We have an obligation to protect our talented team’s hard work, and a duty to help ensure the responsible development of the industry we helped to create. We are confident in our position and the evidence uncovered thus far and look forward to the next stages of the case.”

Archer’s rendering of its eVTOL aircraft from this year shows similarities to Wisk’s patent design application from 2020. Credit: Wisk.