Nikola Corp. Files Suit Alleging Tesla Infringement Caused More Than $2 Billion in Damages

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.

The suit alleges that Tesla infringed upon six designs that were patented by Nikola including its wrap windshield, mid-entry door, fuselage, fender, side cladding and overall design.

“The Tesla Semi design is substantially similar to Nikola’s unique design, and Tesla copied Nikola’s patents,” the lawsuit says, with photos of both trucks included.

Nikola’s wrap windshield is a “unique feature” in the trucking industry, is identifiable from a distance and provides drivers an unobstructed view of the road, the suit said. Nikola alleges Tesla copied the design and even advertised the view drivers had from its vehicle.

The Nikola truck’s fuselage is also aerodynamic and is a unique design in the industry. The Nikola One truck has a 0.37 drag coefficient, while the Tesla truck has a drag coefficient of 0.36, a fact advertised by Tesla, the lawsuit says. Nikola’s truck has a mid-entry door, “another first in the trucking industry,” as does the Tesla truck.

“Nikola has been harmed by Tesla’s infringement in excess of $2 billion,” the suit alleges.

A Tesla spokesperson told Fortune that it’s “patently obvious” the lawsuit has no merit.

Nikola said on Dec. 30, 2015, it filed a series of design patents for its electric Class 8 heavy truck with the US Patent and Trademark Office. In May 2016 it posted its design on its website and issued a release with an image of the Nikola One semi.

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. Seventy-two days after the Nikola truck design was released, Musk announced that Tesla was in the “early stages” of developing a semi.

By Aug. 31, 2016, Nikola had 300 orders for more than 7,000 of its trucks with a total value of more than $2.3 billion. The company’s prototype was unveiled in Salt Lake City on Dec. 1 of that year. Additional orders rolled in bringing the total value to more than $4 billion, the suit says.

In April 2017, Tesla released a teaser image of its semi, but the following November Nikola sent a letter to the company demanding that it not unveil its truck until a determination on whether it infringed on Nikola’s copyrights were resolved, the suit says. Tesla didn’t respond, it says.

Still, on Nov. 16, Tesla unveiled its truck and “almost immediately” received orders and saw its market share jump by about $2 billion, the suit says.

“Tesla has never claimed that its design was unique,” Nikola alleges. “Upon information and belief, Tesla does not have any patents protecting the design of its semi-truck and has not filed any applications for design patent protection.”

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