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Boeing lawsuit accuses Virgin Galactic of stealing trade secrets

Post Time:2024-03-25 Source:Reuters Author:Mike Scarcella Views:

March 22 (Reuters) - Aerospace giant Boeing (BA.N) has sued space tourism startup Virgin Galactic (SPCE.N) in U.S. court, accusing it of stealing trade secrets and failing to pay $25 million for work on a new “mothership” designed to carry and release a sightseeing vessel into space.

Boeing and subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences on Friday asked a federal judge in Alexandria, Virginia, to force Virgin Galactic to destroy proprietary information it allegedly acquired through its work with Aurora to build a new mothership.

The lawsuit said California-based Virgin Galactic was unfairly keeping intellectual property, including test data and some math equations.

“These trade secrets are proprietary information to which Virgin Galactic holds no contractual rights,” the complaint said. Boeing said Virgin Galactic could use the information "to advance design of a new Mothership on its own or with a different supplier."

Virgin Galactic in a statement said "we believe this lawsuit is wrong on the facts and the law, and we will vigorously defend ourselves in the appropriate forum."

Boeing declined to comment.

Billionaire Richard Branson founded Virgin Galactic in 2004. The company offers tourists a chance to fly into space aboard a rocket-powered spaceplane called Unity. The “mothership” jet carrier delivers Unity into space from a release altitude of about 44,000 feet.

Virgin Galactic completed its first commercial flight last year, sending a three-man crew from Italy more than 50 miles above the New Mexico desert.

Virgin Galactic signed a contract in 2022 with Aurora to provide engineer services to help design a new mothership. Aurora later concluded that the mothership that Virgin Galactic wanted would cost more and take more time to develop than expected, the lawsuit said.

Virgin Galactic allegedly refused to pay Aurora more than $25 million for work that the company had sunk in already. Aurora has not performed additional work since May 2023, according to the lawsuit.

The case is The Boeing Company and Aurora Flight Sciences Corp v. Virgin Galactic LLC, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, No. 1:24-cv-00456-CMH-LRV.