Wilson Aerospace sues Boeing for allegedly stealing IP for NASA projects

Artemis 1 Mission Space Launch System (SLS) rocket

Frank Michaux / NASA

Wilson Aerospace, a small, family-run tools company based in Colorado, is suing Boeing over a series of claims involving intellectual property allegedly stolen over the past two decades.

The company’s lawsuit revolves around many of the tailor-made tools that Wilson said it created for Boeing. In contrast, Boeing “rewarded Wilson’s efforts by flagrantly stealing” IP related to multiple devices, the complaint said. Wilson filed the lawsuit in Washington federal court on Wednesday.

According to one of the company’s attorneys, Pete Flowers, the extent of the damage was “difficult to quantify”. Still, Boeing’s actions cost Wilson to the tune of “hundreds of millions of dollars,” he told CNBC.

Wilson’s complaint alleges that its tools – used on NASA projects including the International Space Station and the Space Launch System’s lunar rockets – helped Boeing win billions of dollars. Contract bonuses and fees from the government. Wilson also alleges that counterfeit versions of the tools Boeing made led to leaks on the ISS and SLS – and “put the lives of astronauts in jeopardy”.

The company has filed 10 complaints against Boeing, including piracy, embezzlement and theft of trade secrets, and fraud.

In a statement to CNBC, a Boeing spokesman said that “Wilson’s lawsuit is rife with inaccuracies and omissions,” but declined to share specifics when asked.

“We will vigorously oppose this in court,” Boeing said.

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Led by David Wilson, who founded the company of the same name in 1999, this Colorado-based company has invented exceptional aerospace tools such as the “Quality Mounting Torque Device”. loose” or FFTD, used to tighten and loosen accessories such as those that are “cramped, hard to reach areas on a spacecraft.” Wilson has developed variants of the FFTD, as well as other instruments and assemblies, for use on the ISS, the space shuttle SPACEHAB test module, as well as the Starliner capsule and Boeing’s Dreamliner aircraft.

At the heart of the lawsuit is work done by Wilson for Boeing between 2014 and 2016 using the FFTD product to solve the problem of attaching the rocket’s engine to the SLS “with the correct amount of torque.” Wilson accused the aerospace giant of downloading proprietary information, cutting off communications with the company, and creating “fake” variants that Boeing passed on to NASA.

“Although Boeing has paid Wilson for some of their work over the years, Boeing’s primary approach has been to steal Wilson’s intellectual property through deception and other illegal means, for compensation,” the lawsuit alleges.

In addition, the alleged theft resulted in mismatched components and “poor product”. According to the complaint, “inappropriate tools caused a number of fluid leaks that resulted in repeated delays to the SLS launch, costing NASA hundreds of millions of dollars while unjustly enriching Boeing.” .”

The 74-page complaint cites correspondence with multiple Boeing employees, including one who emailed in September 2020 that Boeing misused Wilson’s IP and created “safety concerns”. for hardware in orbit.” Among those allegedly tampering tools, another attorney for Wilson, Lance Astrella, told CNBC that an earlier variant of the FFTD is believed to have been stranded on the ISS after being stranded by Boeing using incorrect calibration data after duplicating the instrument.

Wilson points to previous lawsuits as examples of “Boeing’s broader pattern of criminal behavior,” such as theft. Lockheed Martin Trade Secrets 2006.

“We strongly believe that there are other companies, possibly small US-owned companies, that have been affected by similar activity inside Boeing,” attorney Wilson Flowers told CNBC.

Read Wilson’s full complaint below:


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