Electric aircraft makers Wisk and Archer end bitter legal dispute, agree to work together

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Electric aircraft rivals Wisk and Archer Aviation have settled their trade secret legal dispute more than two years after the lawsuit was originally filed.

In a somewhat surprise twist — given how bitterly the legal battle had become — the two companies have agreed to collaborate. Archer also agreed to make Wisk its exclusive provider of autonomy technology to be integrated into a future autonomous variant of Archer’s Midnight aircraft, in addition to the collaboration, according to a source familiar with the settlement.

In a separate piece of news that broke Thursday, Archer said it had raised $215 million in new capital from its manufacturing partner Stellantis, Boeing, United Airlines, Ark Investment Management LLC and others, to accelerate its path to commercialization. Boeing’s portion of that new investment is going to support the collaboration between Wisk and Archer on autonomy, the source said.

The exact amount of Boeing’s investment was not disclosed. Boeing has poured hundreds of millions into Wisk, including a $450 million investment in January 2022. Wisk became a fully-owned subsidiary of Boeing this year.

Under the terms of the settlement, Archer also agreed to give Wisk the option to purchase up to 13,176,636 shares of common stock at a price of $0.01 per share. The new agreement settles all previous claims and suits, including Archer’s counter-suit against Wisk seeking $1 billion in damages.

“We are pleased to have reached a mutually agreeable settlement with Archer that resolves our concerns while also eliminating the need for a costly and distracting trial,” a Wisk spokesperson said. “Wisk is committed to working collaboratively within the industry and leading in autonomous passenger flight.”

Thus closes the bitter court battle between the two electric aircraft developers, a battle that’s dragged on for over two years, after Wisk accused Archer in April 2021 for “brazen theft” of confidential information and intellectual property. Those included over fifty trade secrets that Wisk alleged were stolen by a former employee who was later hired by Archer.

Despite multiple mediation attempts, the two companies had been unable to come to an agreement. The lawsuit was scheduled to go to trial on September 12, so the settlement came right at the last minute.

As the lawsuit raged on, Archer continued on its path to commercializing its first electric aircraft, called Midnight. Along with the earnings and new investment, the company announced Thursday that it had received a key certification from regulators greenlighting Midnight for flight test operations. The certificate – called a Special Airworthiness Certificate from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration – is a crucial step in certifying Midnight before it can start commercial service.

Archer has also landed a handful of other big wins this year, signaling that it is one of the unequivocal leaders in electric aviation: In June, the company announced that former FAA administrator Billy Nolen joined as chief safety officer; and last month, the U.S. Air Force agreed to purchase up to six electric aircraft from Archer, in a deal worth up to $142 million.

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