Bombardier sues Mitsubishi in over aircraft trade secrets

The suit alleges that Mitsubishi and Seattle’s AeroTEC hired about 92 former Bombardier personnel.

By Rami Grunbaum / The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — Bombardier has sued Mitsubishi Aircraft in federal court in Seattle, alleging that employees recruited from the Montreal-based company illicitly emailed batches of Bombardier’s trade secrets before they left to help the Japanese plane maker get its long-delayed Mitsubishi Regional Jet certified by U.S. regulators.

The 92-page lawsuit, filed late Friday, alleges that Mitsubishi Aircraft and its Seattle contractor, AeroTEC, have hired about 92 former Bombardier personnel, some after holding job fairs near its Quebec headquarters and its U.S. flight test center in Wichita, Kansas.

Bombardier’s suit also names several employees that it claims misappropriated its confidential documents and data pertaining to the certification of commercial airplanes by Transport Canada and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Because the process is “extremely complex and costly to achieve” for a new aircraft, “since 2000 only four companies worldwide have been able to develop a commercial clean-sheet aircraft program in compliance with the regulatory requirements” of the North American or European air-safety regulators, the suit says.

Mitsubishi, developing the MRJ as Japan’s first commercial jet in decades, had no such experience. The plane was running several years late before the company in 2014 announced its flight tests for certification would be conducted at Moses Lake, with a large complement of engineers based in Seattle to oversee the work.

As of June, the program employed 600 in Washington state and was progressing methodically toward its 2020 debut, despite delays, escalating costs and barriers to U.S. sales.

In addition to technical challenges, the family of 69-to-88-seat regional jets faces stiff competition from planes developed by both Bombardier and Embraer. Bombardier’s C-Series program is now under the control of Airbus, while Embraer is finalizing a joint venture with Boeing.

Mitsubishi and AeroTEC sought to ease the certification process, Bombardier alleges, by hiring people ranking as high as the former director of Bombardier’s C-Series Flight Test Teams and the former C-Series Flight Test Program Manager for Bombardier.

The suit names several lower-ranking Bombardier engineers it claims shipped company documents to personal email addresses in the days or weeks before they left to work for Mitsubishi.

One, it claims, “sent an email from his Bombardier email account to his private ‘Yahoo’ email account (with) two proprietary PowerPoint slide decks” that contained “highly sensitive, proprietary Bombardier trade secret information” about the company’s Global 7000/8000 business jets and confidential communications with Transport Canada for certifying the planes.

Another employee, says the suit, sent herself “hundreds of pages of highly sensitive, proprietary Bombardier trade secret information in the form of specific details” about the process of gathering data for certification of the C-Series regional jet.

The suit says Bombardier executives and lawyers urged Mitsubishi as early as 2015 to avoid misusing the Canadian company’s trade secrets, but were largely ignored.

Bombardier is seeking unspecified monetary damages as well as an injunction ordering Mitsubishi and AeroTEC not to use “any proprietary Bombardier information misappropriated by any former Bombardier personnel” and to stop recruiting its employees to obtain such information.

Mitsubishi representatives in Seattle and Japan could not be reached late Friday to comment on the suit.

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Business Briefs: State minimum wage rises in January

Also, Boeing workers’ donations support local nonprofits and fundraiser for businesses impacted by Bolt Creek wildfire.

Jollee Nichols, right, and daughter Ruby, 2, work on an art project together at the Imagine Children’s Museum on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
With new addition, Imagine Children’s Museum doubles in size

More than just space, the Everett museum’s new $25 million wing is an investment in mental health.

Artistic rendering of 526 Speedway exterior. (Mosaic Avenue Realty Ltd.)
Mosaic Homes looks to add industrial condo space in Mukilteo

Mosaic Homes steps into commercial real estate development with 526 Speedway, an industrial condo project.

Andy Illyn with a selection of his greeting cards, Cardstalked, that are sold at What’s Bloomin’ Floral on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022 in Arlington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Adventure-seeking cop finds new thrill in greeting cards

Mukilteo assistant police chief Andy Illyn unwinds by turning puns and dad jokes into greeting cards.

Dan Murphy, left, Mary Fosse and Rex Habner. (BadgleyPhotography.com / Snohomish & Island County Labor Council)
Everett City Council member honored by local labor council

Mary Fosse, candidate for District 38, receives the first annual Mike Sells Labor Champion award.

Erika Heer is an EVP, Chief Human Resources Officer at Coastal Community Bank.
Tips for Businesses to Prepare for the Pay Transparency Law, Effective Jan. 1

A recent amendment to Washington law will soon require employers to disclose… Continue reading

Lisa Lefeber, CEO of the Port of Everett, speaks to a crowd while in front of a sign celebrating the opening of the new Norton Terminal on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, at the Port of Everett in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Port of Everett christens new Norton cargo terminal

The $40 million terminal took two years to complete and doubles the port’s storage capacity.

Screen printed dish towels available at Madrona Supply Company on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022 in Clinton, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Do some good along with your Christmas shopping

Head across the Sound to Whidbey Island for gift-buying with a do-gooder spirit

Shoppers walk in and out of Macy’s at Alderwood Mall were Black Friday deals are being advertised on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Go ahead, hit snooze: Most Black Friday deals are online

Braving the stores on Black Friday is still a thing, but more retailers are closed on Thanksgiving.

FILE - In this photo provided by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, a crane and boats are anchored next to a collapsed "net pen" used by Cooke Aquaculture Pacific to farm Atlantic Salmon near Cypress Island in Washington state on Aug. 28, 2017, after a failure of the nets allowed tens of thousands of the nonnative fish to escape. A Washington state jury on Wednesday, June 22, 2022, awarded the Lummi Indian tribe $595,000 over the 2017 collapse of the net pen where Atlantic salmon were being raised, an event that elicited fears of damage to wild salmon runs and prompted the Legislature to ban the farming of the nonnative fish. (David Bergvall/Washington State Department of Natural Resources via AP, File)
State won’t renew leases for Puget Sound fish farms

Cooke Aquaculture has until Dec. 14 to wrap up steelhead farming and begin deconstructing their equipment.

Kevin Flynn, right, a meat-cutter with the Marysville Albertsons, hands a leaflet to a shopper during an informational campaign on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. Flynn was one of about a dozen grocery store workers handing out leaflets to shoppers about the proposed merger between Albertsons and Kroger. (Mike Henneke / The Herald)
Proposed merger of Albertsons and Kroger worries employees

Workers at an Albertsons in Marysville urge shoppers to sign a petition blocking the $25 billion deal.

Kim Taylor, left, and Jeff Stoner co-own Greenbank Cidery, a newly opened taproom on Whidbey Island with eight varieties of cider on tap. (Rachel Rosen / Whidbey News-Times)
Cider tasting room opens on Whidbey Island

The owners of Greenbank Cidery have opened a tasting room in Coupeville. Eight varieties of cider are on tap.