Sequoia Aircraft Conversions and its founder David Dotzenroth are seeking summary judgment in favor of themselves and their co-defendants in the trade secrets dispute with Mammoth Freighters, Wagner Aeronautical, Bill Wagner and Bill Tarpley, concerning a 777 freighter conversion program.
According to a reply filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California on June 21, the defendants — Sequoia, Dotzenroth, his son Wiley Dotzenroth and his company CAI Consulting — deny, among others, the allegation that they had maliciously misappropriated confidential and proprietary information in order to launch a competing 777 conversion program.
According to David Dotzenroth, after discussions between Wagner, Tarpley and himself broke off around June 2019, Wagner and Tarpley had “made no effort to retrieve or protect” information and documents relating to a 777 freighter conversion. Dotzenroth “pursued a different business model” without misappropriating any intellectual property belonging to the plaintiffs and partnered with the Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) and Split Rock Aviation — parties with which the plaintiffs never interacted, the defendants said. This consortium is developing its own engineering data and designs, according to Dotzenroth, who also said he had intended to interview Tarpley to join his marketing team and therefore asked Tarpley to sign an NDA in February 2020.
The defendants requested summary judgment on the grounds that the plaintiffs “failed to take reasonable measures to keep their alleged trade secrets secret, and openly disclosed those purported trade secrets to parties who were not legally bound to protect them,” according to the motion for summary judgment.
Wagner, Tarpley, Wagner Aeronautical and Mammoth Freighters lodged their initial complaint against the defendants on May 25.
According to a declaration by Dotzenroth, he had “never agreed on the essential terms of a joint venture” with Wagner and Tarpley, and the three men had “never entered a partnership agreement or formed a company to pursue the aircraft conversion business together.”
“I was never asked at any time by any of the plaintiffs to sign an NDA or confidentiality agreement that governed my use or disclosure of documents and information shared with me during our discussions about a possible business venture,” Dotzenroth said in his declaration.
Additionally, emails from Wagner and Tarpley containing documents and other information on the 777 conversion they were planning did not contain standard automatic confidentiality disclosures, while materials including the development timeline and design drawings showing the cargo door design and maindeck layout did not have “Proprietary” markings, Dotzenroth claimed.
Wagner and Tarpley, for their part, claimed that the three men had agreed to keep their business plan, development roadmap and other documents confidential, and had marked their documents as “Proprietary,” according to their respective declarations in support of a motion for a preliminary injunction, also filed on June 21. They had given Dotzenroth access to the information on the condition that he keep them confidential, and had never consented to him using it for his own purposes, Wagner and Tarpley said.
Mammoth’s design is compatible with the 777-200ER, 777-200LR and 777-300ER but the company had intended to initially focus on the -200LR variant, according to documents submitted by Dotzenroth. Sequoia’s conversion, meanwhile, targets the -300ER, according to the company’s announcement in September 2020.
Both Dotzenroth and Mammoth declined to comment.
The case is currently scheduled to be heard at the Edward J. Schwartz Courthouse in San Diego in July.
With 747-8F production set to end in 2022, the 777F production freighter is currently the only large widebody freighter available. Freighter-converted 777s are seen as a replacement option for freighter-converted 747s, of which there are over fifty in service. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and GECAS, which announced their 777-300ERSF conversion program in October 2019, recently inducted the prototype aircraft (32789, ex-Emirates) in Tel Aviv (TLV) and expects to redeliver it in 2023. IAI told Cargo Facts in May that it may also decide to convert 777-200LRs.