Tesla accused of copycat semi truck design in $2 billion patent lawsuit

by Ben Pena May 3, 2018, 9:28
Tesla accused of copycat semi truck design in $2 billion patent lawsuit

Nikola Corp., a company that unveiled a design for an electric semi-truck in 2016, sued Tesla (TSLA) in an Arizona court saying the company infringed on some of its patents.

Nikola apparently feels it's designs and brand have gotten caught up unfairly in Musk's machinations, and alleges that if Tesla is allowed to continue, the problem might get worse.

The suit alleges that by May 9, 2016, Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk had seen the image, but the company hadn't said it was planning on building an electric truck.

Nikola says the alleged copied design of the Semi has created confusion on the market between the two trucks and caused it to lose potential investments.

Now, there's a $2 billion lawsuit to add to the mix. It also makes you wonder if the company is now anxious that the Tesla Semi will significantly undercut demand for its product, and is thus altering its business plan accordingly.

A Tesla spokesperson told Fortune that it's "patently obvious" the lawsuit has no merit. Nikola points to supposed similarities in the trucks' front fenders, wraparound windshields, mid-entry doors, aerodynamic fuselage (with similar drag coefficients), and more as evidence that Tesla copied its design. By August 2016, Nikola said it had more than 300 orders totalling over 7,000 trucks-a value of $2.3 billion.

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Nikola has sparred with Tesla before, including how it chose to use the first name of the same famous investor when founding the company.

Additionally, Nikola says it was able to identify that Tesla's truck might be infringing on its designs from secret sources over internet leading up to Tesla's mid- November reveal in 2017.

Nikola filed a series of design patents with the US Patent and Trademark Office in December 2015 covering an electric heavy-duty truck.

"This corresponded to a jump of roughly $2 billion in Tesla's market value", the complaint states. Nikola has previously said that it would build 360 hydrogen fueling stations in the US.

Two months later, in July of 2016, Musk announced that Tesla was working on an electric truck of its own and meant to unveil it in 2017. In March, Tesla sent two of its trucks on an inaugural journey from its Sparks, Nevada-based Gigafactory to its Fremont, California-based vehicle manufacturing facility.

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