Rolls Royce faces technical and legal battles

What a bad time for Rolls Royce:
August 2: Uncontained Failure on a Trent 1000 in Darby
August 30: Uncontained Failure at a Qantas B747-400 powered by RB211’s
November 4: Uncontained Failure at a Qantas A380-842 powered by Trent 900’s
Not to mention the more minor problems two B747-400 had with a RB211 (apparently a contained failure) and with fuel hydraulics.

And now: Pratt sues Rolls on patent infringement regarding the Trent 900 and Trent 1000 fan blades.
Let us recall: not long ago, in August, Rolls Royce filed a lawsuit against Pratt & Whitney, claiming that P&W would infringe their patented design for swept fan blades with their fan blades on the GP7000 and the PW1000G (and others). This case is due to go before a jury in the US in the first half of 2011.
Pratt & Whitney apparently fights back now, filing also a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), which could be very damaging for Rolls Royce, as if the ITC rules in Pratt’s favor, RR could get blocked to ship any more Trent 1000’s to Boeing. And if the UK courts come to the same conclusion, RR would also have a problem to ship the Trent 900 to Airbus.

But could that be Pratt’s real interest? Not only P&W and RR would be deadly enemies forever, also Airbus and Boeing would not be happy about P&W, as deliveries for the B787 and A380 to customers with Trent 900 and 1000 engines would be (further) delayed or in the worst case impossible. As a last consequence you could expect RR to go bankrupt.

So I doubt that this is what P&W is really looking for – even if Airbus goes ahead with the A320NEO and P&W developing a version of their PW1000G Geared Turbo Fan for it without Rolls Royce, the two companies will still be tied for centuries, as the V2500 will continue to be shipped until 2015 at least and aftermarket activities will continue  - say – twenty years plus.

So what could be the real goal behind the legal actions?
My guess: P&W wants RR to “cooperate” a little bit more on the narrowbody front:
RR officially states that reengining the current Boeing and Airbus narrowbodies does not make any sense. But it sounded a little bit different until RR was officially put out of the reengining game by Airbus. And as RR has no interest to participate as  a junior partner in the GTF, RR would be out of the narrowbody market at least until a clean sheet design either by Boeing or Airbus arrives. So one can imagine that RR will do everything (legal, of course) they can do to prevent the Airbus reengining by hindering and blocking P&W’s PW1000G to be one of the –NEO engines.
I do not know how the IAE contract between Pratt, RR and the other partners looks like, but maybe RR can block an engine offering for the A320NEO by P&W – or block order conversions from the V2500 to a PW1000G once the A320NEO is officially offered to costumers.

It will be interesting to see how RR will come out of these two battles:
-          the technical battle: RR has to regain confidence on the Trent 900/1000 – and maybe the XWB
-          the legal battle with P&W