By Scott Hamilton
Oct. 28, 2022, © Leeham News: A settlement has been reached between the Mammoth Freighters and other plaintiffs and NIAR, the aerospace research arm of Wichita State University, it was announced today.
“This agreement now concludes all existing litigation between NIAR and Wagner/Mammoth, without any payment from either party or restrictions on NIAR, its personnel, its customers or partners, or its conversion aircraft program going forward,” NIAR/WSU said in a statement. The court filing dismissing the lawsuit says each side bears its own costs.
A new filing yesterday in the US District Court of Southern California, where Mammoth filed lawsuits alleging trade secrets theft, revealed that settlement talks between Mammoth and Sequoia Aircraft Conversions, David Dotzenroth, and others, were unsuccessful.
NIAR teamed with Sequoia to develop a freighter conversion program in competition with Mammoth. Mammoth is co-plaintiffs alleged Sequoia, and in a subsequent lawsuit, NIAR, stole trade secrets from Mammoth and its founders, William Wagner and William Tarpley.
After more than a year of increasingly bitter claims and counterclaims, the District Court denied Mammoth’s request for a preliminary injunction. The court ruled Mammoth failed to prove elements of its case and was unlikely to prevail at trial. A short time later, the court dismissed as defendants three of four employees of NIAR named by Mammoth in its lawsuit against the WSU-affiliated company. The lawsuit against the fourth NIAR employee was not dismissed for jurisdictional reasons. The merits of the lawsuit were not adjudicated at the time.
Mammoth and Wagner alleged that Sequoia, Dotzenroth, NIAR, and others took confidential information Wagner and Tarpley presented to them at a time when the parties were exploring a joint venture. When no JV agreement was reached, Sequoia, Dotzenroth and NIAR chose to pursue their own 777 freighter conversion program. The plaintiffs claimed that the documents the defendants received were trade secrets and confidential information.
The defendants responded that no Non-Disclosure Agreements were signed relevant to the issues in dispute and that documents were not marked confidential or subject to NDAs. The Court, in denying Mammoth’s request for a preliminary injunction, agreed.
Sequoia and NIAR are pursuing a conversion using a cargo door forward of the wing, a design Wagner claims were his. Mammoth is pursuing a conversion with the door aft of the wing, a Wagner design. Kansas Modification Center, which was not a party to the lawsuit, will perform the conversion for NIAR. Israel’s IAI Bedek separately designed and is proceeding with its own aft-door 777 P2F program. IAI was not a party to the lawsuits.