2 May 2018

Tesla hit with $2bn truck lawsuit

Tesla’s planned new truck infringes three design patents owned by a competitor, according to a lawsuit filed yesterday.

Nikola, a designer and manufacturer of electric components and vehicles, filed the complaint at the US District Court for the District of Arizona, citing Tesla’s first electric lorry.

In November 2017, Elon Musk’s company announced its new product, the Tesla Semi, an electric semi-trailer truck which the company intends to begin manufacturing in 2019.

Nikola filed a series of design patents with the US Patent and Trademark Office in December 2015 covering an electric heavy-duty truck. In May 2016, the company released designs and an image of the truck, called the Nikola One, on its website.

Nikola said that by August 2016 it had received orders for more than 7,000 of the trucks, totalling $2.3 billion.

Shortly after, a recruiter for Tesla contacted Nikola’s chief engineer, the suit claimed. The recruiter allegedly said that “Tesla is building a new team to focus on development heavy trucks” and requested a “chat”.

The engineer didn’t respond and, in April 2017, Tesla released an image of the Tesla Semi. The suit claimed Tesla’s market value jumped by $2 billion after the Tesla Semi was unveiled.

Nikola claimed it sent a letter to Tesla in November 2017 informing the company that its design included features that Nikola was seeking patent protection for.

Between February and April 2018, Nikola obtained six design patents (filed in 2015) relating to the Nikola One, although the suit has only claimed infringement of three of these.

The suit alleged that Tesla infringed a number of Nikola One’s patented features, including the wrap windshield (US patent number D811,968), the fuselage (D811,944), and the mid-entry door (D816,004).

Nikola has asked that Tesla be permanently enjoined from infringing Nikola’s patents; all damages resulting from the infringement, which Nikola estimates to be more than $2 billion; triple damages for wilful patent infringement; and legal costs.

Speaking to WIPR, a spokesperson for Tesla said that “it’s patently obvious there is no merit to this lawsuit”.

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