back to article Family-owned aerospace biz throws a wrench in Boeing IP lawsuit

Boeing is being sued for allegedly stealing IP and ripping off tools built by family-owned company Wilson Aerospace to assemble components used for NASA's Space Launch System rocket and the International Space Station. The 74-page complaint [PDF] filed with the Western District Court of Washington accused Boeing of stealing …

  1. KittenHuffer Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Big ass company run by beancounters stealing the ideas of smaller companies ..... nah! That would never happen!

    1. Alumoi Silver badge

      Big ass company with a lot of expensive lawyers on call stealing the ideas of smaller companies ..... nah! That would never happen!

      There, much better.

      1. b0llchit Silver badge
        Holmes

        At Big ass companies, the beancounters usually are expensive lawyers.

        See, all fits perfectly. Even with wrongly applied torque.

        1. eldakka

          > At Big ass companies, the beancounters usually are expensive lawyers.

          Fixed that spelling mistake for you.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Coat

          Maybe instead of going to court they could reach and amicable agreement by torquing it out?

    2. Woodnag

      inaccuracies and omissions

      A spokesperson for Boeing told The Register in a statement: "This lawsuit is rife with inaccuracies and omissions..."

      Yet they can't actually name any inaccuracies and omissions in the statement. Hmm.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: inaccuracies and omissions

        More pointedly " inaccuracies and omissions. " doesn't mean claiming it's not substantively correct.

        1. RegGuy1 Silver badge

          Re: inaccuracies and omissions

          Quite. The tool isn't silver, it's sort of metallic grey, and they never mentioned the little sticker on the handle...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yet they can't actually name any inaccuracies and omissions in the statement. Hmm.

        Sounds like that they have been listening to some of the Select Committee's in DC that claim the the current POTUS took all sorts of bribes when VP but can't produce any evidence to back up their claims.

        Looks like a new pandemic... The No proof legal claims syndrome.

        Send for Fauci.

  2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

    Using the right tool for the job..

    From the filing-

    Not only was the problem with its trapped fittings falsely attributed to Wilson’s FFTD-1 tool, but Wilson further discovered in January of 2021 that the trapped tool was a counterfeit tool built by a competitor of Wilson’s that bore Wilson’s part number and trademark.

    And there's more with Boeing asking for traceability markings to be applied using eraseable ink..

    234. The capture latch project was managed at Boeing’s secure building on the highly guarded Redstone Arsenal...

    236. In 2018, and at Boeing’s request, Wilson manufactured a Gearbox and delivered it to Boeing at the Redstone Arsenal. Boeing employee, Suzanne Young, guided Dr. Wilson and his wife and son in and out of the Arsenal bypassing security, apparently for the purpose of covering up Wilson’s involvement in the project.

    The ability to sneak people and packages into a supposedly high security facility is.. kinda bad. And there's much more shady practices described in the filing. Quite fascinating, ie the challenges of making a torque tool with low input and high output for use by astronauts in space. And I hope Wilson wins, gets a lot of money and can maybe get tools to market. I mean a high precision torque wrench that works in (very) confined spaces.. Who doesn't want one of those?

    1. blackcat Silver badge

      Re: Using the right tool for the job..

      I know/knew some people who worked around the US aerospace industry in the 70s/80s and the stories of what went on will scare you.

      This industry has been above the law for a very long time.

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: Using the right tool for the job..

        I know/knew some people who worked around the US aerospace industry in the 70s/80s and the stories of what went on will scare you.

        A while back I read a report on counterfeiting that reported it's not just fake Gucci gear, but also things like brake pads and other safety-critical stuff use in the aviation and automotive industry. Or this filing, which details knock-off tools gettng stuck in rather critical locations, like inside the airlock of the ISS.. And then trying to blame Wilson. It also explains why aerospace stuff gets expensive. You need a custom tool designed and manufactured for a job, and it just has to work. The nearest Home Depot is a looooong way away. Plus the consequences of ending up with a trapped tool inside a critical element, which means you can't be entirely sure what the state is, and no way to easily fix it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Using the right tool for the job..

          ... and the airlock door no longer closes ...

          1. MrBanana

            Re: Using the right tool for the job..

            I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that.

        2. Contrex

          Re: Using the right tool for the job..

          In the 1970s I worked for a motorcycle dealer that sold XXX brand machines made in Japan. It was one of a network of XXX Main Dealers, who were the only ones allowed to sell official XXX branded spare parts, everything from complete engines, frames, down to headlight bulbs, brake cables, gaskets, etc. Even screws, nuts, bolts and washers were listed and stocked. The contract with the XXX Motor Company (UK) Ltd stipulated that only genuine maker's spares were to be sold, and any infraction could lead to withdrawal of the contract. XXX company inspectors could in theory arrive unannounced to perform inspections of the warehouse and retail stocks. They never came on Sundays when the whole business was closed!

          A big seller was brake shoes for a number of smaller motorcycles. The official XXX Company margin on these was not enough for the company owner. Unofficial Sunday overtime was sometimes available to unload the truck bringing 'pattern' brake shoes round the back of the warehouse, and to discard the incriminating packaging. They were stacked along with the official versions, and sold at the same high price.

          At the time I just thought (I was young) how devious the very self-important owner and founder of the company was. I now strongly suspect that the potential 'inspections' would never come, and the reasons might have been contained in brown envelopes, and also that the brake shoes were exactly the same as the ones that XXX Company wanted us to sell.

      2. Marty McFly Silver badge

        Re: Using the right tool for the job..

        >"I know/knew some people who worked around the US aerospace industry in the 70s/80s and the stories of what went on will scare you."

        I get your point. However, I believe the industry has transitioned from a balls-out approach to a much slower and deliberate process. There was a time when it was make-it-happen at all costs, and damn the rules. Yes, those days are passed, and we can argue if that is better or worse.

        With that in mind, we should not judge the actions of decades passed by the standards of today.

        1. blackcat Silver badge

          Re: Using the right tool for the job..

          Thankfully they've moved a bit beyond putting you up in a hotel, getting you drunk and snapping pics of you with hookers for leverage. Now its called 'lobbying' :)

        2. Brian 3

          Re: Using the right tool for the job..

          Please, tell us what your belief is based on? the 'rampant' success of the traditional players in the last couple decades? boeing never self-certify total bullshit do they? oh no, you never see where they didn't bother to do a test run of any kind at all before launch? only to discover the minor software bug in midair?

          Are the 'standards of today' even real for a company like boeing? they seem to ignore them whenever they please

          1. blackcat Silver badge

            Re: Using the right tool for the job..

            The FAA pretty much delegated their duties to someone on the payroll at Boeing. Similar situation to how Bernie Madof got away with things for so long with the regulators.

        3. LybsterRoy Silver badge

          Re: Using the right tool for the job..

          -- With that in mind, we should not judge the actions of decades passed by the standards of today. --

          and can we apply that to all sorts of things where standards of today have changed (occasionally for the better)

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Boeing are just awful

    After reading about the 737 Max debacle, the decision made to risk letting planes fly even though they KNEW there was a problem therefor letting the 2nd crash happen. Blaming the pilots and getting in the way of the enquiry.

    The issues raised in teh undercover Al Jazeera documentary showing massive lack of safety and regards for workers.

    I refuse to fly Boeing. They're just wall street shills now, the engineer removed from the business.

    The ONLY think I like about Musk is that he might kill Boeing's space business. It's ridiculous.

    Most of the C-suite who made the 737 MAX decisions are still in place and literally nothing has happened to improve their safety record.

  4. steelpillow Silver badge
    Trollface

    The MAX toque wrench?

    "because Boeing covertly ... without .. full instructions ... several of the aerospace and aviation products built by Boeing are pockmarked with critical safety flaws that put lives at risk."

  5. that one in the corner Silver badge

    Boeing[1] to Wilson

    Torque to the hand, 'cos the face ain't listening!

    [1] named, of course, after the noise made when their lawyers are let out of their hutches.

  6. I could be a dog really Bronze badge
    Coat

    And suddenly this classic sketch drifted into my mind.

    1. MrBanana

      Thank you for that. I thought it was Allegros, but it says Ambassador at the end. Still at the shitty end of British Leyland output, but there was very little above it. My dad's Jaag had appalling build quality and started falling apart after 6 months.

  7. nautica Silver badge
    Happy

    Boeing better hope the "inaccuracies and omissions" AREN'T fixed...

    "This lawsuit is rife with inaccuracies and omissions. We will vigorously defend against this in court.". Of course they will.

    The only thing missing is the obligatory legal horse-shit we've all come to expect--and very tired of reading--from every big-dollar corporation, in such situations; something very similar to

    "The XYZ corporation takes its obligation to protect the safety and privacy of its customers and the general public very seriously, and..."

    1. Brian 3

      Re: Boeing better hope the "inaccuracies and omissions" AREN'T fixed...

      "The XYZ corporation takes its obligation to protect the safety and privacy of its customers and the general public very seriously, and..."

      Well, the CORPORATION does, but however, none of the employees give a damn, nor are they allowed to. Too bad the corporation can't make any decisions for itself, I guess!

  8. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "Boeing rewarded Wilson's efforts by brazenly stealing Wilson's intellectual property"

    BOING is seriously starting to look like a den of scum and villany.

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: "Boeing rewarded Wilson's efforts by brazenly stealing Wilson's intellectual property"

      What do you mean "starting"?

  9. Komm the Kat

    You'd be shocked how often this happens... $AutoCompany helped one of our competitors steal one of our big presses once, guided them in, helped them measure and everything. Not a damn thing we can do about it because we can't afford to defend the patents. Good news is, competitor can't make it for shit even copying it bolt for bolt, so $AutoCompany gave up and bought it from us anyway.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "so $AutoCompany gave up and bought it from us anyway."

      I hope, as the only supplier of the actual working, quality product, you at least doubled the price to them :-)

  10. EricB123 Silver badge

    Bravo, Boeing!

    Sounds like Boeing is adapting the Chinese business model. See, there are things the US can learn from China.

  11. Chris Roberts
    Joke

    Tool names

    Is the FFTD the first hydrospanner?

  12. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Alien

    Boulder, Colorado

    Where Mork from Ork used to reside.

    Can we be sure that the technology is not alien inspired?

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