Airline Weekly

Daily Airline News

Air Taxi Companies Sued Over Intellectual Property: What’s Behind the Lawsuit

Madhu Unnikrishnan
April 6th, 2021 at 3:24 PM EDT


Electric takeoff and landing aircraft (eVTOL), or air taxis, flew from the realm of science fiction to the real world in the space of a few short months, touted by airlines, more focused on sustainability than ever, as a greener way to connect city centers and remote regional airports with the air transport system at major hub airports. In a less welcome sign of reality’s intrusion, two of the largest players in the space shortly could be embroiled in a contentious lawsuit over intellectual property theft.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Wisk Aero, which is working on the sixth generation of its eVTOL, filed a suit in the federal district court for the Northern District of California alleging that Palo Alto, Calif.-based Archer Aviation stole its intellectual property for its own eVTOL prototype. Specifically, Wisk alleges that Archer’s prototype is a copy of a design Wisk submitted to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office January 2020.

Wisk said it has been working on its prototype for more than 10 years and was immediately suspicious when Archer unveiled its plans. “Just a year ago, Archer appeared to have little or no meaningful operations, let alone the years of research, development, and testing required to fly even a prototype of an eVTOL aircraft,” Wisk said in a blog post explaining its lawsuit. “We have discovered significant and troubling evidence indicating that Archer has been using Wisk’s proprietary intellectual property without our permission.”

Wisk said it suspects one of its former employees downloaded thousands of confidential files “near midnight” before joining Archer, which hired 10 Wisk engineers.  “Another engineer downloaded numerous files containing test data just before departing for Archer.” Wisk alleges, adding that it hired a forensic search firm to investigate the issue. “Yet another wiped any trace of his computer activities shortly before leaving for Archer.”

Archer dismissed Wisk’s allegations as baseless. “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,” an Archer spokesperson said. “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.”

Archer said it has placed on employee on administrative leave while the investigation continues, and three other employees have been subpoenaed. The company is cooperating with authorities, the spokesperson said.

The two companies have some pretty serious backers. Boeing and Kitty Hawk have invested in Wisk. The New Zealand government is working with Wisk on a prototype air taxi.

Archer with great fanfare recently signed an agreement with United Airlines for up to 200 of its eVTOLs. United declined to comment on the lawsuit.


Already a member?

Already a member?

Up Next

Latin America

Mexico’s Viva Aerobus Announces Major U.S. Expansion

Viva Aerobus, a low-cost airline in Mexico, has announced six new routes to the U.S. from Monterrey, its busiest airport. The move follows the long-anticipated U.S. government decision to upgrade…

North America

Breeze Sees Softer Bookings as Airline Growth Outpaces Fall Travel Demand

U.S. airlines have scheduled too many flights this fall for the number of travelers, Breeze Airways founder and CEO David Neeleman said. This is pushing down airfares just as fuel…


Hawaiian Airlines Defends Tokyo Haneda Flight Rights as United Seeks to Expand

Hawaiian Airlines plans to resume all of its flights to Tokyo Haneda this winter that were suspended during the pandemic, CEO Peter Ingram said. The move comes as United Airlines…


U.S. Airlines Expect Further Easing of China Flight Limits this Winter

U.S. and Chinese airlines are eager to resume nonstop flights between the two countries following a diplomatic accord in August doubling the number allowed. They have proposed 63 weekly flights…


KLM CEO Rebukes Dutch Proposal to Tax Transit Passengers at Schiphol

KLM CEO Marjan Rintel offered a firm rebuke of a proposal in the Netherlands' legislature to tax transfer passengers at the airline's hub, Amsterdam's Schiphol airport.

Exit mobile version