Electric aviation company Wisk Aero filed a motion for a preliminary injunction Wednesday in its ongoing lawsuit with rival electric air travel startup Archer Aviation. The injunction could put a serious wrench in Archer’s operations should the courts approve it.
Wisk has asked the court to immediately prohibit Archer from using 52 trade secrets that it alleges were stolen by former employees who were later hired by Archer. The trade secrets “span the gamut of systems within the aircraft and processes for development,” a Wisk spokesperson told TechCrunch.
“This a baseless motion in a baseless lawsuit,” an Archer spokesperson told TechCrunch. “Archer independently designed its aircraft, before any employees from Wisk joined Archer, and Archer looks forward to demonstrating that in court. Archer is moving forward with its business plans, including the development, certification and production of its proprietary aircraft.”
Given the widespread subject matter of the trade secrets, an injunction would likely limit Archer’s operations. The courts have not yet ruled on whether Archer misappropriated trade secrets, as Wisk alleged in its original filing on April 6. Wisk says it discovered the trade secret theft after it sent the work laptops of a departing employee to an outsider investigator, who discovered that the employee had downloaded nearly 5,000 files. This employee is now a senior power electronics engineer at Archer.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Justice is conducting a separate federal investigation into a former Wisk employee who now works for Archer, based on Wisk’s trade secret allegations.
Archer said in a filing with the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission that it had “placed an employee on paid administrative leave in connection with a government investigation and a search warrant issued to the employee.”
The injunction hearing has not been scheduled. It will likely occur within the next few days due to the nature of the request. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California under case no. 5:21-cv-2450.
The story was updated to include Archer’s comments and to reflect that a former Wisk employee who now works at Archer, not Archer or its senior management, is the subject of the FBI’s investigation.