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Mitsubishi countersuit alleges Bombardier sought to stifle MRJ

Updated with Bombardier's response.

Mitsubishi Aircraft has returned legal fire against Bombardier, filing a counter suit in federal court alleging that the Canadian manufacturer has engaged in a deliberate effort to derail the MRJ regional jet programme.

Mitsubishi Aircraft's suit asserts that "Bombardier has engaged in illegal anticompetitive behavior with the intent to impede the development and certification of the Mitsubishi Regional Jet", says a 28 January statement from Mitsubishi Aircraft.

"For several years, Bombardier has engaged in a multifaceted scheme of illegal anticompetitive conduct directed against Mitsubishi, its partners and its employees," the statement adds.

Mitsubishi Aircraft's US subsidiary Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation America filed the suit on 28 January in the US District Court for the Western District of Washington, the company says.

FlightGlobal has not yet reviewed the suit, which comes three months after Bombardier sued first. It alleged that several former employees took stolen trade secrets with them to new jobs working on the MRJ programme.

Mitsubishi Aircraft's counter-strike also comes as it continues working toward a long-sought goal of achieving certification for the MRJ90.

"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 programme," the company says.

In an email to FlightGlobal, Bombardier contested Mitsubishi's position: "“Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation (MITAC)’s attempt to recast the dispute as anything other than Bombardier’s justified protection of its intellectual property is misguided and disingenuous. The facts of this case plainly show an unlawful attempt by MITAC to obtain and use Bombardier trade secrets to advance the certification of its MRJ aircraft. That sort of misconduct is not fair competition as MITAC pretends, it is wrong and it is illegal. Bombardier will vigorously enforce its rights and that includes holding MITAC, AeroTEC and individual wrongdoers accountable.”

Mitsubishi Aircraft recently received authority from Japanese regulators to begin MRJ90 certification flights early this year. The company has most recently pegged entry-into-service in 2020.

The legal spat started on 19 October 2018 when Bombardier filed a suit in the same court against Mitsubishi Aircraft, Seattle-based AeroTEC and several former Bombardier employees.

AeroTEC is a Seattle-based company assisting with MRJ flight testing.

Bombardier's suit alleged that Mitsubishi and AeroTEC induced former Bombardier engineers to steal trade secrets and to take new jobs working on the MRJ.

It claimed that several engineers, before joining Mitsubishi Aircraft and AeroTEC, stole "invaluable" documents such as CSeries (now A220) flight test profiles and certification reports. Bombardier claimed those actions violated federal and Washington state trade laws.

Mitsubishi Aircraft, AeroTEC and the employees have denied wrongdoing, claiming Bombardier lacks evidence, insisting they never used such documents and asking a judge to toss out the suit.

The case is ongoing.

Mitsubishi Aircraft now says Bombardier's suit reflects a broader "anticompetitive" effort aimed at keeping the MRJ from certification.

"Since late 2015, Bombardier has threatened, pressured and sought to coerce Mitsubishi Aircraft, its US-based partners and individual employees working on the MRJ programme," says another statement from Mitsubishi Aircraft. "These threats and the present litigation constitute an effort by Bombardier to impede the progress of the development of the MRJ, and ultimately to delay the MRJ from entering the market."

The Japanese aircraft maker has also framed its suit as defending the broader aerospace industry. Bombardier's decision to sue individuals rather than corporations only could stifle the free flow of engineering talent between projects, it says.

"This tactic by Bombardier will chill the mobility of aerospace engineers among all aircraft development programmes, which has been an established norm for decades in the aerospace industry," Mitsubishi Aircraft says.

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