Tesla Inc. was hit with a $2 billion infringement lawsuit from the startup alternative fuel vehicle manufacturer Nikola Corp., which alleged in Arizona federal court Tuesday that Tesla stole its design for a semi truck. "Salt Lake City, Utah-based Nikola claims it was issued 6 design patents by the US Patent and Trademark Office between February and April 2018 for its wrap windshield, mid-entry door, fuselage, fender, side cladding, and the overall design of the Nikola One".
The Utah-based outfit alleges that the Elon Musk-run company copied several styling elements from its upcoming Class 8 tractor for the design of the all-electric Tesla semi it revealed a year ago.
A Tesla spokesman denied the claims.
A Tesla spokesperson told Ars, "It's patently obvious there is no merit to this lawsuit".
According to statements made over the years, Nikola plans to start production of the electric truck sometime in 2021. Most recently, Nikola claimed in April that, while it has over $8 billion in preorders for the different versions of its semi trucks, all those reservations will "be refunded 100%" and the startup "won't use your money to operate our business" - statements that appear to be obvious barbs at Tesla, which holds almost $1 billion in customer deposits for the Model 3 and other various announced products, according to recent filings. Nikola says that Tesla's Semi, which was revealed in November 2017, too closely resembles its Nikola One, a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle that was revealed in December 2016.
In the complaint, Nikola alleges that Tesla's design "has caused confusion among customers", and that any more stumbles on Musk's part could damage its own brand.
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Nikola said it attempted to communicate with Tesla days before the California company unveiled the Semi, asking that the debut event be canceled.
"Tesla has never claimed that its design was unique".
"Nikola did not respond to Tesla's invitation", the lawsuit reads. The facility where it will manufacture the trucks does not yet exist, and apparently, neither does the money for it.
"For example, Tesla has had problems with its batteries starting fires and its autonomous features causing fatal accidents".
Nikola has requested a trial by jury.