A federal judge in San Francisco rejected air taxi startup Wisk Aero’s request for a preliminary injunction against rival startup Archer Aviation, as Silicon Valley’s first big “flying car” legal drama heats up.
Wisk, a joint venture between Boeing and Kitty Hawk, wanted to block Archer Aviation from using any of the 52 trade secrets it alleges were stolen. Wisk is also seeking unspecified monetary damages from Archer in a lawsuit that was filed April 6th. Federal investigators are also looking into the case.
In his ruling, US District Court Judge William Orrick wrote that Wisk’s request was “too uncertain and equivocal,” though he acknowledged that there were “some arguable indications of misappropriation.”
Archer celebrated the ruling by blasting Wisk’s lawsuit as meritless. “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,” Archer’s deputy general counsel, Eric Lentell said in a statement. “Wisk’s charges of massive theft are based entirely on conspiracy theories and outright misrepresentations of the actual record.”
Archer claims that evidence introduced in the case will prove that its 12-rotor, battery-powered Maker aircraft was designed “independently, and well in advance of any effort by Wisk to develop a similar eVTOL [electric vertical and takeoff] aircraft.” Archer officially unveiled its demonstrator aircraft at an event in Los Angeles last month.
In its lawsuit, Wisk alleged that former employee Jing Xue improperly downloaded almost 5,000 data files onto a personal device that he subsequently gave to Archer after joining the company in January 2020. Lentell claims that Wisk is trying to defame Xue as the “poster child for the covert theft.” But when questioned in court about the files, Xue pled the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination, citing the federal investigation into the case. Archer has place Xue on administrative leave.