Archer Aviation is seeking $1 billion in damages from Wisk Aero, according to court filings Tuesday, significantly escalating the ongoing legal battle between the two air taxi rivals.
Wisk “deployed a knowingly false extra-judicial smear campaign that projected stand-alone defamatory statements about Archer to the world,” the filing says. On this basis, Archer claims that this “smear campaign” has negatively impacted its ability to access capital and has impaired business relationships, resulting in damages “likely to exceed $1 billion.”
The two companies have been locked in a heated legal battle for much of this year. The dispute started in April, when Wisk filed a suit with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California claiming that Archer had misappropriated its trade secrets related to Wisk’s debut eVTOL aircraft, Cora. Wisk further alleged that a former employee, Jing Xue, downloaded thousands of proprietary files from his work computer prior to joining Archer.
This is not the first time that Archer has hit back against the accusations in court. First it filed a motion to dismiss the suit in early June, and later that month alleged in a separate court document that Archer’s design was well-established prior to Wisk’s having filed any patents with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Archer unveiled a prototype of its Maker aircraft in February, the same month that it announced (to much fanfare) it was going public via a merger with blank-check firm Atlas Crest Investment Corp. for a pro-forma enterprise value of $2.7 billion. Late last month Archer slashed its valuation by $1 billion in a “strategic reset” of the transaction terms with the SPAC. While this is the same amount Archer is seeking in damages, a company spokesperson told TechCrunch that is just coincidental.
In addition, the spokesperson added that the planned merger remains on track. Speaking to the suit, they said, “We have no plans to drop our counter-claim regardless of any moves Wisk may make.”
A Wisk spokesperson said “Archer’s counterclaim is ludicrous and its troubles are purely self-inflicted,” and characterized the filing as “full of distortions and distractions from the serious patent and trade secret misappropriation claims it faces.” The spokesperson added that Wisk intends to continue its case against Archer.