Air taxi rivals Wisk and Archer will enter mediation in March in trade secret theft suit
Wisk Aero and Archer Aviation will be entering mediation for a second time at the end of March, nearly two years after the rivals commenced a bitter court battle over Wisk's allegations that the newer air taxi entrant stole trade secrets, TechCrunch has exclusively learned.
"We remain open to a potential resolution of the case but strongly believe Wisk’s claims are without merit," an Archer spokesperson said regarding the mediation. A representative for Wisk said the company does not comment on ongoing litigation
The two companies entered mediation the first time at some point prior to October 25 last year. According to a transcript of an October 25 Zoom call between the parties' lawyers and the judge assigned to trade secret suits, an attorney representing Wisk said the companies had conducted a mediation but that it was unsuccessful. Wisk attorney Yuri Kapgan told the court that despite the previous failure, Wisk was not opposed to another settlement conference or private mediation.
“We’re certainly open to exploring opportunities to resolve this case,” Josh Krevitt, the attorney representing Archer, agreed.
Judge William Orrick told the attorneys that he may still send the case to a magistrate judge for a settlement conference even if Wisk and Archer conduct another private mediation.
“It doesn’t appear that the pain of litigation is motivating to your clients as a reason to settle, so I’m hoping that there might be something else that would — that some wise person would help them see the benefit of resolution,” he said.
Mediation is often used in trade secret disputes as the proceedings remains confidential. Confidentiality can be especially important for the plaintiff in case related to IP, as they may want to avoid sensitive information being released in public court filings or through the jury trial process. Trade secret lawsuits in particular can also be complicated, protracted and costly on both sides, leading many attorneys to recommend meditation or settlement.
Wisk and Archer have been locked in a bitter trade secrets lawsuit for nearly two years. Both companies are developing electric aircraft. Archer, which was founded in 2018, wants to develop an air taxi service as early as 2024; the company signed a major partnership with United Airlines to kick-start the service, with the first proposed route connecting Newark Liberty International Airport to the Downtown Manhattan Heliport in New York City.
Wisk, a company that was spun out of a joint venture between Kitty Hawk and Boeing, is developing a four-seater autonomous aircraft. The company unveiled its sixth generation air taxi in October of last year, with the company saying it intended to put the vehicle forward for certification with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.
Wisk brought the lawsuit against Archer in April 2021, alleging that the newer eVTOL entrant had perpetrated “brazen theft” of intellectual property and trade secrets. Since then, the legal battle has only gotten nastier, with Archer later asking the court to award it $1 billion in damages from the suit. Should the mediation fail, Wisk and Archer agreed to a schedule that will see their trial commence August 14, according to court documents.