A family-owned, Colorado-based aviation company called Wilson Aerospace has filed a lawsuit accusing the giant military and NASA contractor Boeing of fraud and stealing their intellectual property.
Wilson, which Boeing contracted between 2014 and 2016 to come up with solutions to attach engines to NASA's Space Launch System Moon rocket, also alleges that Boeing terminated said contract and came up with botched solutions that were "critically deficient in quality and performance," as quoted by Sky News.
These tools, the lawsuit claims, led to leaks that delayed the launch of the massive rocket.
Worse yet, Wilson accuses Boeing of putting astronauts' lives at risk by blundering its own take on the IP it allegedly stole from the family-owned outfit.
"Boeing has not only stolen our intellectual property and damaged our company's reputation but has used the technology incorrectly and at the expense of astronauts' safety, which is beyond despicable," said the company's founder David Wilson, as quoted by the Denver Post.
"I hope that this lawsuit will put a stop to Boeing's repeated practice of prioritizing its own profits over safety," he added.
Needless to say, Wilson is making some very serious allegations here — but whether they'll stand up in court remains to be seen.
Boeing, for its part, has shot back, claiming that it was Wilson that seriously screwed up.
"This lawsuit is rife with inaccuracies and omissions," Boeing told Reuters in a statement. "We will vigorously defend against this in court."
According to the complaint, which was filed in Seattle federal court earlier this week, Boeing made "billions of dollars in revenue because of the infringement of Wilson's trade secrets" and is therefore asking for "all revenues and profits Boeing has obtained as a result."
Wilson also alleges that Boeing stole its designs for special tools used by astronauts during spacewalks to install equipment for the International Space Station's life support system and airlocks.
According to the suit, Boeing used a special wrench "in a manner non-conforming with its original design."
One of Wilson's lawyers Lance Astrella even told CNBC that an earlier variation of the tool is still stuck on the ISS to this day.
Wilson also claims Boeing wrongfully blamed subsequent leaks on Wilson's tool.
"Boeing had accused them in public forums of having made a defective tool, and being honest folks, they took the position of, 'Gee we must have done something wrong,'" Astrella told the Denver Post.
"They put a heck of a lot of time and effort into figuring out what they were doing wrong, which was nothing," he added.
In short, there's clearly a lot of bad blood between the two companies.
The lawsuit goes as far as to invoke the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster that killed seven astronauts in 2003, accusing Boeing of using "Wilson as a scapegoat for Boeing's fraudulent testing procedure and false calibration instructions."
Since Boeing is still allegedly using Wilson's stolen IP without knowing how to properly make use of it, Boeing has built other products as well that have "critical safety flaws that put lives at risk," Wilson claimed in his statement.
Again, Wilson is making some extremely serious accusations, and Boeing will likely throw some weight behind its efforts to dismiss them in court.
It's hard what to make of the situation. Did Boeing really take advantage of a much smaller contractor and infringe on its IP? Could Boeing's allegedly careless actions really have led to leaks on board the ISS and even the Columbia? Or is this a messy case of a partnership gone bad?
For now, all we can do is wait and see as this particularly hairy case develops.
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