Wilson Aerospace accuses Boeing of IP theft

Meet Wilson Aerospace. This small family-run biz based in Colorado is no ordinary toolmaker.

Wilson Aerospace accuses Boeing of IP theft
NASA's next-generation moon rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion crew capsule, lifts off from launch complex 39-B on the unmanned Artemis I mission to the moon at Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S. November 16, 2022. Reuters/Thom Baur/File Photo

The backstory: Meet Wilson Aerospace. This small family-run biz based in Colorado is no ordinary toolmaker. These guys are making some serious waves in the aerospace industry. Wilson has been around since 1999 and has been the mastermind behind major NASA projects. We're talking about the big leagues here – the International Space Station (ISS) and the Space Launch Systems (SLS) moon rocket. But that's not all. The aerospace giant Boeing is also on Wilson's client list.

Now, what makes Wilson Aerospace so special? Well, they've got a knack for creating mind-blowing custom tools. One of its gems is this nifty thing called Fluid Fitting Torque Device (FFTD), which is like the secret sauce for tackling those pesky spacecraft fittings. You know, the tricky connections and attachments that can make or break a mission. The FFTD is like the go-to tool that keeps everything locked in place, making sure those spacecraft components don't go flying off into the void. These tools also have been used in Boeing's Starliner capsule, Dreamliner aircraft and even Space Shuttle experiments.

More recently: Last week, Boeing hit another snag with its Starliner spacecraft, which is its own spacecraft in competition with the likes of Elon Musk’s SpaceX. In an unfortunate twist, it announced another delay in the first crewed launch of this craft. The capsule's got some more issues, and NASA's right there in the loop.

Starliner’s crew flight test was recently rescheduled from April to July 21. Well, it's not happening anymore. The culprit this time is that the parachute systems are acting up, and safety's a big concern. It also found a flammable tape was used on the spacecraft. So, it's working on fixing these problems before the company can send astronauts to the ISS.

The development: Wilson Aerospace has just dropped a legal bomb on industry giant Boeing. It's accusing Boeing of stealing its intellectual property for over 20 years and is demanding justice and millions of dollars in damages. Wilson got 10 solid claims lined up, covering everything from copyright infringement to theft of trade secrets.

Now, let's get into the details. The whole fuss revolves around Wilson's work for Boeing between 2014 and 2016. Wilson was using FFTD to fix engine attachment problems with the SLS rocket. Wilson is saying that Boeing copied its tools and made lower-quality versions of them, even ending up causing leaks on the ISS. And that this alleged theft led to all sorts of major problems, like messed-up components and delays in rocket launches, which ended up costing NASA a ton of money. Wilson's lawyers argue that Boeing's shenanigans not only cost the company a fortune but also tarnished its reputation and made it harder for Wilson to snag contracts.

Key comments:

"Boeing has captured billions of dollars in revenue because of the infringement of Wilson's trade secrets," and must turn over "all revenues and profits Boeing has obtained as a result," said the complaint from Wilson Aerospace.

“Although Boeing paid Wilson for some of its work over the years, Boeing’s primary approach was to steal Wilson’s intellectual property through deception and other illegal means, rather than to compensate,” said the complaint.

"This lawsuit is rife with inaccuracies and omissions," said Boeing in a statement. "We will vigorously defend against this in court."