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Bombardier refiles MRJ trade secret lawsuit

Bombardier has dragged Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation America (MACA) back to federal court, refiling a lawsuit alleging theft of trade secrets related to CSeries certification and Global 7000 systems.

The Montreal-based airframer has argued the Mitsubishi Regional Jet programme benefitted from those secrets.

“Bombardier submitted an amended complaint which clarifies the relationship between the defendants and provides additional information on the harm that Bombardier suffered as a result of [Mitsubishi Aircraft’s] unlawful actions,” says Bombardier in a statement to FlightGlobal.

“Bombardier will continue to enforce its rights and ensure that all wrongdoers are held accountable,” it adds.

The refiled suit says the loss of staffers to the MRJ programme delayed certification of both the Global 7000, which Bombardier has since renamed the 7500, and the CSeries, which became the A220 after Bombardier sold majority programme ownership to Airbus in 2018.

“As a result of the actions of defendants…Bombardier’s certification efforts for these aircraft were delayed by several months,” says the suit.

Some 92 former Bombardier staff currently work on the MRJ programme, the manufacturer says in the suit.

Mitsubishi Aircraft did not immediately respond to requests for comment but has previously said it denies wrongdoing and that a lawsuit will not affect MRJ certification.

The case originated in October 2018 when Bombardier sued MACA, its Japan parent Mitsubishi Aircraft, US-based flight-testing company AeroTec and several former Bombardier employees.

Bombardier alleged the former staffers stole trade secrets when leaving Bombardier to take jobs working on the MRJ programme, violating federal and Washington State trade secret laws.

Earlier in April a federal judge tossed Bombardier’s claims against MACA, saying Bombardier failed to prove MACA knew about those secrets.

The judge left in place counts against Mitsubishi Aircraft and gave Bombardier 15 days to refile, which Bombardier did in late April.

The refiled suit argues MACA knew about the trade secrets and that Mitsubishi Aircraft used its corporate structure to shield affiliate MACA from liability. The companies are essentially one and the same, Bombardier alleges.

“[MACA] employees recruited from Bombardier would know or have reason to know and recognise any Bombardier trade secret information being incorporated into MRJ certification,” says the refiled suit.

“The facts of this case plainly show an unlawful misappropriation by [Mitsubishi Aircraft] and the other named defendants of Bombardier trade secrets to advance the certification of the MRJ aircraft”, says Bombardier’s statement to FlightGlobal.

The former Bombardier employees allegedly stole CSeries certification reports related to airspeed indicating and static pressure systems, air temperature indicators and flight-testing data, Bombardier says.

Employees also stole Global 7000 and 8000 secrets related to skew detection systems, Bombardier alleges.

"Mitsubishi Aircraft maintains its position that Bombardier’s allegations are without merit," the airframer tells FlightGlobal. "Mitsubishi Aircraft is confident that it will ultimately prevail in defending itself from Bombardier’s unwarranted allegations, and that Bombardier’s actions will not adversely impact the development and entry into service of the MRJ or the success of the MRJ program."

Story updated 15 May to include Mitsubishi's comment in preceding paragraph.

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