Dawn Ellmore – Tesla Sued by Hydrogen Truck Start-Up Over Patent Infringement

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(Newswire.net — July 10, 2018) — Tesla is well-known to mainstream media thanks to the its vocal CEO Elon Musk. Among the publicity stunts and journeys to Mars, it’s also no stranger to lawsuits.

Hydrogen truck start-up Nikola Motor Company filed a lawsuit at the start of May 2018, alleging Tesla is copying their hydrogen truck patents. The lawsuit cements a clear rivalry between the companies. Both are named after Nikola Tesla, and both announced plans for technologically revolutionary semi-trucks. So, has Tesla copied the start-up?

Tesla says ‘no merit’

Nikola filed the lawsuit in Arizona, alleging that Tesla’s recently announced electric semi-truck infringes on their already granted patents. They say that Tesla knowingly copied their patents to create its electric truck and want $2 billion in damages.

In response, Tesla said, “It’s patently obvious there is no merit to this lawsuit.” This apparently tongue-in-cheek statement could be construed as Tesla being genuinely unworried by the lawsuit. Nikola has declined to comment, saying “The lawsuit speaks for itself.”

Who is the Nikola Motor Company?

Founded in 2014, Nikola unveiled its first products in May 2016. They comprised a hydrogen-electric hybrid semi-truck and an electric four-wheel off-road vehicle. Since these announcements, it has also spoken about a second semi-truck, released limited details about potentially releasing all-electric personal boats, and said that it has plans to build a $1 billion factory in Arizona.

Nikola’s patent complaint describes a number of issues which, according to the company, prove Tesla stole their patents. The complaints encompass similarities to the front fenders of the tricks, as well as to the wraparound windshield designs, mid-entry doors and aerodynamic fuselage.

In addition, Nikola allegec that Aaron Hoyos, a recruiter for Tesla, attempted to poach its chief engineer following the start-up’s unveiling of its hydrogen semi-truck. Nikola says that this is clear evidence that Tesla was fully aware of the unique design features created by the company.

Identifying infringements

Nikola maintains it was able to clearly identify that Tesla has infringed its design patents by the ‘spy shots’ all over the internet during the weeks before Tesla revealed its semi-truck in November 2017.

At that point, Nikola sent a cease and desist letter to Tesla on November 7, 2017, which is included in the lawsuit as an exhibit. In the letter, the start-up asked Tesla to delay the impending announcement until the issue was resolved. However, Nikola maintains that Tesla did not respond to this correspondence.

Market confusion

The main thrust of the lawsuit is Nikola’s assertion that Tesla’s semi-truck is causing “confusion in the market”. They say that, “Tesla’s infringement has harmed Nikola’s ability to attract investors and partners because investors can now partner with Tesla to have an alternative fuel semi-truck.”

The amount Nikola has calculated the alleged losses caused by Tesla to be is “in excess of £2 billion”.

Not the first time

Nikola has clashed with Tesla before, including over the name chosen for the start-up. As both companies are named after the same inventor, and create and design similar products, it’s perhaps inevitable that these issues keep arising.

A recent example of apparent digs at Tesla by Nikola came in April when the company reassured customers that the $6.3 billion in pre-orders for the various semi-trucks on offer will be “refunded 100%”, and that they won’t “use your money to operate our business.”

This is assumed to be an indirect attack on Tesla, given that the latter holds around $1 billion in customer deposits for its Model 3 and other announced products, according to recent filings.

Patents in question

Nikola said that it was granted six design patents earlier in 2018 for specific elements of its revolutionary semi-truck. As touched on earlier, these concern the design of various elements of the hydrogen-electric truck, from the windshield to the fuselage.

In the lawsuit Nikola said: “The Tesla Semi design is substantially similar to Nikola’s unique design, and Tesla copied Nikola’s patents.”

Nikola’s plans

It seems that the start-up has plans to rival Tesla’s well-known ambitious outlook. Not only is Nikola in the process of shifting its HQ from Salt Lake City to Arizona, it’s announced plans for a 1 million square-foot factory.

Nikola has also said that it is aiming to deliver a hydrogen-electric long-haul truck to customers by 2020, following a technology partnership with Bosch in 2017. The start-up caught the industry’s attention with this partnership as Bosch is a major automotive supplier based in Germany, which makes the delivery date more likely.

The company has received more than $6.3 billion customer deposits for more than 7,000 of its revolutionary trucks. Nikola will start production of its Nikola One in 2020. This will have a hydrogen fuel tank that takes about 20 minutes to fill and gives about 700 to 1,000 miles worth of range. Last year, Nikola’s CEO Trevor Milton told the media that, “I personally believe in the next 10 years you won’t be able to buy a diesel anymore. It’s game over.”

What next for Nikola V Tesla?

The outcome of the lawsuit remains to be seen, and it does appear that Tesla is unbothered by the allegations, at least publicly. At Dawn Ellmore Recruitment, we focus on placing the best candidates in the ideal roles throughout the spectrum of IP law positions.

This specialist sector of law needs recruiters than understand the intricacies of the industry, and the qualities necessary for positions as wide ranging as trade mark solicitors, patent attorneys, trainee attorneys and support staff.

By keeping abreast of cases like Nikola V Tesla, the team at Dawn Ellmore is always at the cutting edge of major patent and copyright lawsuits.

About Dawn Ellmore Employment

Dawn Ellmore Employment was incorporated in 1995 and is a market leader in intellectual property and legal recruitment.