Nikola Corp. has sued rival Tesla Inc. for $2 billion, claiming Tesla infringed on U.S. patents Nikola received on cab design, including wrap windshield, midentry door, fuselage, fender, side cladding, and the overall design of a semi.
Nikola is demanding a jury trial as part of the suit filed May 1 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. The company declined further comment.
Tesla could not be immediately reached for comment.
Nikola One (Nikola Motor Co.)
Nikola filed for its patents in December 2015.
In May 2016, Nikola issued a press release and image announcing its intention to build an electric Class 8 truck — prior to that Nikola claims Tesla had not announced it intended to build a Class 8 truck.
Then in July 2016, 72 days after Nikola published its design, Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, announced on Tesla’s blog that it was “in the early stages of development at Tesla and should be ready for unveiling next year.”
Two months later, Aaron Hoyos, a recruiter for Tesla, sent Nikola’s chief engineer, Kevin Lynk, an email saying Lynk’s background “would be a great fit [at Tesla].” Hoyos wrote, “[W]ould you be open to a quick call to hear what we’re up to?” according to the filing.
Lynk did not respond.
Nikola unveiled its prototype to widespread coverage in December 2016.
In April 2017, Tesla released a “teaser” image of its own Class 8 truck.
Tesla unveiled its Class 8 truck in November 2017 — orders followed from major carriers. Tesla’s market value jumped by roughly $2 billion after the unveiling, according to the filing.
Also in November, Nikola sent a letter to Tesla, according to the filing, that identified the semi-truck design features Nikola was patenting and demanded that Tesla not unveil its semi until Tesla’s infringement had been resolved. Tesla never responded, according to Nikola.
Nikola was awarded its patents between February and April 2018.
Nikola claims Tesla has no similar patents of its own.
Nikola also pointed to its patented design that has a drag coefficient of around 0.37. Similarly, the Tesla truck has a drag coefficient of around 0.36.
About $2.3 billion in orders came in to Nikola shortly after the unveiling — that subsequently grew to $4 billion, the company said. Overall, it has received 9,000 orders, Nikola said separately in April.
Nikola plans to field test its truck in the fourth quarter and begin production in 2020. Tesla said its trucks would be ready by 2019.
“I understand protecting intellectual property, but with so much information available and concerns with how each technology might benefit or hurt fleet’s total cost of ownership, I hope we stay focused on delivery of great products to them and the tools to help them chose,” Mike Roeth, executive director, North American Council for Freight Efficiency, told Transport Topics.