Fortress, Wichita State U ensnared in Mammoth-Sequoia trade secret theft lawsuit

By Scott Hamilton

Nov. 1, 2021, © Leeham News: A nasty trade secret theft lawsuit between two companies vying to compete in aftermarket freighter conversions expanded this month to include Fortress Investments and the National Institute for Aviation Research at Wichita State University (NIAR).

Last July, Mammoth Freighters LLC, Wagner Aeronautical and their principals filed a lawsuit in the US Southern District of California against Sequoia Aircraft Conversions and its principals. Mammoth alleged Sequoia and its founders stole trade secrets from Mammoth to start their company in competition to Mammoth.


Basis of lawsuit

Mammoth’s principals initially approached Sequoia’s principals to partner and pursue P2F conversions of the Boeing 777-200LR and 777-300ER. When agreements could not be reached, the parties went their separate ways. In late 2019, Mammoth alleges in the lawsuit, it discovered the newly formed Sequoia was using materials, designs, engineering, and business plans shared in pursuit of the partnership to develop its own P2F program. By 2021, Mammoth found funding from Fortress. Sequoia found its own funding and had partnered with NIAR for engineering.

Sequoia denied the allegations, claiming the documents weren’t labeled confidential and proprietary. The plaintiffs also waited nearly a year and a half before bringing the lawsuit. Sequoia also claims that Mammoth and its principals have “unclean” hands, a legal term meaning “An equitable defense that bars relief to a party who has engaged in inequitable behavior (including fraud, deceit, unconscionability, or bad faith) related to the subject matter of that party’s claim.” The company claims Mammoth principals presented to Sequoia proprietary documents from Boeing, Precision Conversions and IAI Bedek. Wagner was the Precision Conversions engineer for the Boeing 757 P2F program.

It also points to a court case in Arizona in which one of Mammoth’s principals was found liable for trade secrets theft. A $3.8m judgement was issued and the principal declared bankruptcy.

Settlement discussed

A settlement conference was held in the US Southern District of California in September, but there apparently was an unsuccessful outcome. Sequoia on Oct. 14 filed a Motion to Compel Production of records under subpoena from Fortress. Fortress is not a party to the lawsuit, but as Mammoth’s deep pockets, Sequoia seeks records from Fortress relevant to Mammoth’s claim that Sequoia engaged in trade secrets theft. Fortress objects to turning over documents.

Then on Oct. 22. Mammoth asked the court for permission to file an amended complaint to include NIAR and Wichita State university. Following discovery, Mammoth now claims NIAR “willingly” received Mammoth trade secrets from Sequoia.

Looking on

IAI Bedek announced its 777-300ER P2F program in 2019 with lessor GECAS as its launch customer. While Mammoth and Sequoia are duking it out in court, IAI announced a second conversion line to supplement its one in Tel Aviv. This one is in Abu Dhabi, a prime location for the Big 3 Middle East airlines, each of which operate large fleets of 777-300ERs. Etihad Airways, headquartered in Abu Dhabi and one of the Big 3, partnered with IAI in this project.

According to market intelligence, Mammoth hoped for a launch order from Emirates Airline. But Emirates instead placed its order for 777-300ERF conversions with IAI Bedek to be done in Abu Dhabi. Market intelligence also indicated that another customer Mammoth is counting on appears near to placing an order with IAI. Other potential customers are also pausing while the lawsuit continues, according to market intelligence.




14 Comments on “Fortress, Wichita State U ensnared in Mammoth-Sequoia trade secret theft lawsuit

  1. Two illusionist haggling over IP.
    ( Mammoth seems to have been founded less than 10 Month ago.?)

  2. Are they in any way affiliated with Boeing? Or is this just an American thing, to do the work in the court houses instead the hangars?

    I guess IAI will rub their hands getting things done, while the others spend their money on lawyers.

    • Its like something out of Mad Magazine!

      It seems like Mamouth is either really stupid or complicit in theft as well.

      Why would you share proprietary documents with someone unless you had an agreements signed? Let alone giving someone propriety documents with no agreements or signature as to their use?

      It seems Mamouth came out of no where and they suddenly were going to do gobs of conversion, that had my alert functions up.

  3. Looking at Fortress, they have engaged in unethical practices in the past.

    I am betting that this is more of the same and I foresee Mammoth (sp?) disappearing from the Radar like the other Fortress associated entities that were caught.

  4. Sadly, as this case winds its way through the courts, Time is being lost getting to market. IAI Bedek has a second line set up and seems to be vacuuming up all the orders. It wouldn’t surprise me of the only money made here is by the lawyers

    • Scott Correa:

      Or is Mammoth just smoke and mirrors and its the usual bait and switch?

      Fortress has a lot of that shill in their background. Chaff and flare and then the entity declares bankruptcy and is gone and Fortress goes on.

  5. Possibly the usual thing: Some employees left once company to found another in the same line if business or they were recruited. Maybe some drawings or CAD files went with them, maybe not.

    • Employees can have patents assigned personally.
      But “proprietary IP” will most probably have been “liberated”.

  6. And how the heck did Wichita State University get tangled up in this? Are they trying to compete with IAI? Or are they just a naive bunch of students?

    • WSU’s research arm, NIAR, has experience in composites and more. This is the connection and how WSU got involved. Also, I am told Boeing’s Ihssane Mounir is a WSU grad. I don’t know if that’s true (I haven’t checked) or whether he engaged, but something to consider–maybe.

      • Universities are turning themselves into mini industrial complexes with services for hire.

        So while a lot of it is behind the scenes its getting more and more commonplace for them to become revenue generators.

        Welcome to the modern world!

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