Mitsubishi hits back at Bombardier over lawsuit

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Japanese company Mitsubishi has slammed claims made in a lawsuit that it has hired Bombardier engineers and stolen trade secrets to help speed up the testing and certification of its delayed Regional Jet.

Last week Canadian aerospace and transportation firm Bombardier started proceedings to sue Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation, Seattle-based Aerospace Testing, Engineering and Certification (AeroTEC) and a number of individuals in a federal court in Seattle, Washington.

Bombardier is seeking an injunction against several former employees, Mitsubishi and AeroTEC to prevent them sharing information about how to certify aircraft, including the processes, statistics, analysis and other data from previous Bombardier aircraft development programs.

The lawsuit also seeks to stop Mitsubishi and AeroTEC from recruiting any more Bombardier employees to obtain confidential information and wants three of its former employees to stop working on the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) program. Bombardier is also seeking damages to compensate for the alleged theft of the trade secrets.

Bombardier said, “The company faces significant harm from its competitor’s access to its trade secrets and confidential information. We have strong evidence to support that Bombardier trade secrets were misappropriated and are being used for the certification of the MRJ Regional Jet.

“Bombardier does not take these actions regarding its trade secrets lightly and is taking all the necessary steps to protect its intellectual property.”

According to the documents submitted to the Seattle federal court and seen by Aerospace Testing International, it is alleged that from October 2015 Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation America (MITAC America) and AeroTEC actively targeted Bombardier test engineers and pilots for recruitment, using emails, billboards positioned outside of Bombardier’s Flight Test Centre and a jobs fair held near to Bombardier’s headquarters. The campaign resulted in the recruitment of 92 former Bombardier employees.

The lawsuit also alleges that several former employees breached contracts and ethics codes by emailing themselves documents about Bombardier’s testing and certification across several programs, including the CSeries and Global 7000 and 8000. These documents, the lawsuit claims, are subsequently being used to help the development and certification process of the MRJ, with the subject matter of some of the stolen documents later appearing in FAA certification filings for the regional jet.

According to Bombardier, the information shared by the former employees so far could save Mitsubishi “several hundreds of millions of dollars in flight testing and avoid several years of delays in the certification process”. The lawsuit also suggests that the allegedly stolen documents could “serve as the foundation of a revival of the Japanese air manufacturing industry” and force Bombardier to compete with Japanese firms several years before it otherwise would have had to.

Mitsubishi has rejected Bombardier’s allegations in the lawsuit and claims it is an attempt to stifle competition. The company said, “We strongly reject this lawsuit and find their allegations and assertions without merit.

“The MRJ program is developing aircraft that will set new standards for performance, airline profitability, and traveler comfort. As a result, we see these proceedings as a recognition of our competitive product and this lawsuit primarily as an attempt by Bombardier to stifle global competition.

“We will strongly defend our position in this case.”

A date for a jury trial has yet to be set.

The 70-90 seat MRJ program has been beset by delays. Development of the MRJ started in 2004, around the same time as Bombardier’s CSeries.

The MRJ was originally planned to enter service in 2013, but its certification in the USA is now planned for the middle of next year with first delivery a year later. It started flight tests in the USA in October 2016.

The CSeries is now being operated by several airlines, however in October 2017 Airbus bought a majority stake in the program and the aircraft is now known as the A220.

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Ben has worked all of his career as a journalist and now editor, covering almost all aspects of technology, engineering and industry. In the last 16 years he has written on subjects from nuclear submarines and autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies and commercial aviation. Latterly editor of a leading engineering magazine, he brings an eye for a great story and lots of experience to the team.

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