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Electric Air Taxi Legal Row Heats Up as Archer Countersues Wisk

Madhu Unnikrishnan

August 18th, 2021

The legal battle between Archer Aviation and Wisk Aero, two of the most prominent electric vertical take off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft companies, took another step up as Archer filed a countersuit against Wisk seeking $1 billion in damages from the ongoing court cases and harm to its reputation.

The suit, filed in federal court for the Northern District of California last week, alleges Wisk engaged in a “false, extra-judicial smear campaign” in public statements and on its blog, and that Wisk does not “get a free pass to make false and damaging statements outside the judicial process.” Archer alleges these statements caused it damages that could “exceed $1 billion.”

Both companies have been in the news for other, more positive reasons recently. Archer landed a $1 billion deal with United Airlines and Mesa Air Group for up to 200 of its eVTOLs, and Wisk, which is a joint venture between Boeing and Kitty Hawk, has unveiled plans for air taxi services in New Zealand and the U.S.

“Archer’s counterclaim is ludicrous and its troubles are purely self-inflicted,” a Wisk spokesperson told Airline Weekly. “Archer’s filing is full of distortions and distractions from the serious patent and trade secret misappropriation claims it faces.” 

The row began earlier this year, when Wisk sued Archer to allege Archer poached one of its engineers after he had downloaded proprietary files on Wisk’s aircraft design. Archer used this information to amend its own aircraft design, Wisk said both in the lawsuit and on its website. Wisk will prove its long history of eVTOL research in court, the spokesperson said.

Archer categorically denied that it stole Wisk’s intellectual property. In its countersuit, Archer said it had discussed its design with an Archer engineer during a recruiting meeting. In fact, Archer said in its suit that Wisk’s design only emerged after Archer had revealed its plans to the engineer. Archer said it a forensic analysis revealed that it possessed no confidential Wisk files.

Last month, a federal judge denied Wisk’s request for a preliminary injunction against Archer. The case is now expected to go to trial.

“If Wisk persists in going to trial, we will defeat them in court and immediately sue them for malicious prosecution,” an Archer spokesperson said. “But even if Wisk drops its claims at this point, we will continue to seek damages for its illegal and equally baseless campaign to publicly smear our company outside of court.” 

The court has not set a date for the trial. Archer said it will seek full relief for damages when the cases go to trial.

Madhu Unnikrishnan

August 18th, 2021

Photo credit: Archer and Wisk are engaged in an increasingly fraught legal battle over intellectual property. Archer

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