Update: Order public: federal court denies Mammoth Freighter request for preliminary injunction in trade secret theft lawsuit

By Scott Hamilton

Update, Oct. 11, 2022, (c) Leeham News: The US District Court of Southern California posted its Oct. 7 order on Oct. 11 denying Mammoth Freighter’s motion for a preliminary injunction against David Dotzenroth, Sequoia Aircraft Conversions and NIAR, the engineering arm of the University of Wichita.

Among the findings:

  • As reported below, the court ruled that there is no irreparable harm to Mammoth and that there is no likelihood of succeeding on the merits of the lawsuit.
  • The court determined that Mammoth failed to specifically identify alleged trade secrets.
  • Mammoth lost on every point alleged in the lawsuit, the court ruled.

A copy of the order is here: 10-6-22 Order Prelim Injunction and here: Oct 7 Order Prelim Injunction et al

What’s next?

Mammoth could move to dismiss the lawsuit. If it doesn’t, the Defendants could move for a Summary Judgment dismissing the lawsuit. Or Mammoth could proceed with the lawsuit despite the court’s conclusions to date.

There is no deadline to pursue any of these options.

In major blow, federal court denies Mammoth Freighter request for preliminary injunction in trade secret theft lawsuit

Oct. 7, 2022, © Leeham News: The US District Court of Southern California denied a request by Mammoth Freighters for a preliminary injunction against David Dotzenroth, Sequoia Aircraft Conversions and others in the long-running lawsuit alleging the defendants with theft of trade secrets and intellectual property.

The order was issued on Sept. 28, but it has not been published yet. LNA learned of the order in a filing yesterday by the defendants seeking publication of the order on the PACER court website.

“The Order was filed under seal as Document 373, but there is no entry on the public docket indicating that it was entered or that Plaintiffs’ motion was denied,” the attorney for Dotzenroth, et al, wrote in a motion seeking publication of the order.

Denial of the motion for a Preliminary Injunction is a major blow to Mammoth. Although the Oct. 6 motion doesn’t contain details of the Sept. 28 order, the Cornell University Law School website states factors a court will consider in a request for an injunction.

Plaintiff must show irreparable harm

“To get a preliminary injunction, a party must show that they will suffer irreparable harm unless the injunction is issued. Preliminary injunctions may only be issued after a hearing. When determining whether to grant preliminary injunctions, judges consider the extent of the irreparable harm, each party’s likelihood of prevailing at trial,” Cornell’s website states.

“A trial court must consider two of the four elements—the probability of success and irreparable injury elements,” the American Bar Association states on its website.

Although the court’s Sept. 28 order is not yet posted on PACER, it is logical to conclude that Mammoth not only could not show irreparable harm but that the court also concluded Mammoth is unlikely to prevail at trial.


Mammoth filed a lawsuit more than a year ago against Dotzenroth, Sequoia, Split Rock consultants (which was advising Dotzenroth) and later added NIAR, the engineering research arm of the University of Wichita (KS). Split Rock was subsequently dropped from the lawsuit.

Mammoth and its top principals, Bill Tarpley and Bill Wagner, alleged that Dotzenroth and Sequoia stole confidential and proprietary information from them (trade secrets and intellectual property) after Wagner and Tarpley shared information as part of a proposal to develop and sell Boeing 777 passenger-to-freighter conversions. A business venture did not proceed. Tarpey and Wagner eventually got funding from the private equity firm Fortress. Dotzenroth and his partners founded Sequoia and proceeded to market its conversion plan.

Mammoth developed P2F conversions for the 777-200ER and 777-300ER, placing the big cargo door aft of the wing. Sequoia marketed a conversion of the 777-300ER with a cargo door ahead of the wing. Kansas Modification Center, which is not a party to the lawsuit, will perform the conversions.

Dotzenroth and NIAR denied stealing the trade secrets and, among other things, claimed that the documents and emails originating with Tarpley and Wagner weren’t marked confidential. The defendants also claimed in court filings that some of the documents Tarpley and Wagner shared were marked confidential and proprietary Boeing and Precision Conversion documents.

Court filings also revealed that Wagner had been found in an Arizona court to have improperly taken intellection property from an earlier Boeing 727 conversion program. Wagner filed for bankruptcy after being assessed a multi-million dollar penalty.


8 Comments on “Update: Order public: federal court denies Mammoth Freighter request for preliminary injunction in trade secret theft lawsuit

  1. Isn’t that hassle all about basic engineering, available to all competently educated?

    ( i.e. I think that much in the domain of “trade secrets” is overblown just to give some lawyers boat a bit of boyancy.)

  2. There are a number of things that are not obvious to normal engineers with respect to aircraft construction. The safety of flight items and fatigue life components don’t exactly jump out and grab you unless you are immersed in it. Is there a case for IP theft, I dont think so. There is case of sour grapes because an engineer got loose into the world and can do what you can do, but beyond that, this is IMHO without merit.

    • That is why I mentioned the “available to all competently educated” detail 🙂

      • I think their point is that the trade processes used werent just the same because any knowledgeable business would do it that way but that they took the other companies data and procedures either after sharing with restrictions or were stolen by employees.
        Its like if somestole customer or suppliers list from one company and took them to use at a competitor. Its not a secret who these people/businesses are but stealing them isnt allowed for competition purposes rather than by your own work

  3. Without having enough knowledge to comment on this particular case, it is a common tactic to propose a joint venture only to end up building a competing product using knowledge gained in the discussions. The person with the knowledge obviously has to provide evidence to show that it is worth paying for. Just to know the things to avoid is really valuable and would be costly to obtain otherwise.
    I have seen this happen and it does leave a bad taste even if the person taking the knowledge can avoid legal action.

    • Yes. Its widely suspected thats what Douglas did when at first wanted to license build the French Caravelle in US , but changed their mind and built their own DC9 instead.
      Douglas could design and build their own plane from scratch , but having done some preliminary work, its very useful to have a deeper look at a competitors in service plane from the manufacturing side- and not just by buying one and taking it apart that one competitor these days is known for.

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