Bothell-based hybrid-electric airplane startup Zunum, which ran out of cash and collapsed in July 2019, has filed swimsuit towards former funding associate Boeing.
The lawsuit filed in King County Superior Courtroom alleges that Boeing “employed a targeted and coordinated campaign to gain access to proprietary information, intellectual property, and trade secrets” after which used its dominance in aerospace and its affect with suppliers “to execute on a strategy to delay and then foreclose” Zunum’s operation.
Zunum’s swimsuit names Boeing’s enterprise capital unit, Horizon X, in addition to French engine provider Safran as co-defendants, and asks for compensatory and punitive damages. Boeing declined to touch upon the lawsuit.
Led by former Google and Microsoft senior govt Ashish Kumar, Zunum proposed constructing a household of small hybrid-electric planes with principally composite airframes and Tesla-style batteries within the wings.
These had been to be mass produced to be used as air taxis or as commuter planes for enterprise individuals on high-traffic, short-hop routes similar to Silicon Valley to Los Angeles.
In 2017, Boeing Horizon X, together with New York-based airline JetBlue, agreed to spend money on Zunum, immediately bolstering the startup’s credibility.
In June 2017, the state of Washington’s Clear Power Fund kicked in an extra $800,000 in a research-and-development grant.
Final yr, the corporate ceased operations, laid off nearly all its employees, and closed its Bothell workplace, whereas collectors seized its tools at a plant in Illinois the place it was growing its electrical motor.
Although Zunum appears to exist now solely on paper, a spokesperson, whereas declining an interview, promised Monday to “be in touch with future updates on the company’s progress.”
The lawsuit alleges that Boeing repeatedly reneged on guarantees of funding and dissuaded different buyers from placing in cash, whereas it concurrently used its place on Zunum’s board to extract proprietary secrets and techniques.
“Boeing noticed an modern enterprise, with a dramatically improved path to the longer term, and offered itself as inquisitive about investing and partnering with Zunum,” the lawsuit states. “As a substitute, Boeing stole Zunum’s know-how and deliberately hobbled the upstart entrant as a way to preserve its dominant place in business aviation by stifling competitors.”
Beginning with a nine-seat model, Zunum deliberate to scale as much as a 48-seat plane with a 1,000-mile vary by 2027, and even bigger variations later. The lawsuit claims these bigger models posed a risk to the marketplace for Boeing’s smallest single-aisle jets.
After acquiring this proprietary data, the swimsuit alleges, “Boeing approached Safran, to offer a hybrid-electric propulsion system for a distinct plane design,” which it states was designated the Boeing Hybrid Electrical 11.