Battle of the Patent

by Gill D on September 25, 2020

In a twist of irony, Tesla and Nikola, two EV car manufacturers who are named after inventor, Nikola Tesla, are not getting along with their relationship is turning into a battle over the patent of the Tesla Semi.

Trevor Milton, founder, and previous executive chairman of Nikola, unveiled its design of a semi truck back in 2016 and showed off its prototype, the Nikola One, in 2018 that was supposedly powered by hydrogen and electricity. Being impressed with the potential of Nikola’s foot in the EV industry, General Motors recently invested $2 billion into the company even though it did not have a working model of a semi.

Earlier this month, Mr. Milton’s climbing fame ended abruptly when the Hindenburg Report was released claiming Milton had lied about Nikola’s technology and promoted a fraudulent video in 2018 of the Nikola One powering down a highway. As it turned out, the Nikola One was not even at a stage of being driven by its own powertrain. A lot of controversy ensued, and Milton resigned from his position as chairman.

It was during 2018 when Nikola filed a lawsuit against Tesla claiming the Tesla Semi’s design was “stolen” from Nikola One. The Tesla Semi was unveiled in 2017. Tesla request the lawsuit be dropped as it was without merit, but the following year, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board denied Tesla’s request. And that lawsuit is still ongoing today but taking a different turn.

Tesla’s new response claims that Nikola in fact copied the design of the Nikola One from the Rimac Road Runner truck. According to Tesla, Nikola did not credit Ariano Mudri in its patent application for the Nikola One. Ariano is the designer of the Rimac Road Runner. In recent documents filed by Tesla, it states that Trevor Milton met with Mudri in 2015 indicating he was aware of the design of Road Runner, and similar features were quoted to be the same as the Rimac. Tesla representatives feel this qualifies as "deceptive intent":

“Adriano Mudri is the designer of the Road Runner concept truck. The Road Runner truck is a hydrogen-powered concept truck. The Road Runner concept truck was entered into the 2010 Michelin Design Challenge and was selected for display at the 2010 North American International Auto Show. Several images of the Road Runner concept truck are reproduced below.”

“Adriano Mudri’s Road Runner concept truck design constituted a significant inventive contribution to the inventions claimed in the Design Patents. Adriano Mudri was not identified as an inventor during prosecution of the applications that led to the Design Patents.”

The Nikola One and the Tesla Semi share similarities. Both have a curved windshield showing a bullet-like aerodynamic front and silver finish. So, Nikola wants to sue Tesla for $2 billion for copying a design that Nikola claims to have a patent on. Elon Musk's EV company claims it could not have stolen the design of the Semi from Nikola because Nikola stole the design from Rimac first. Tesla says that Nikola’s patents aren’t even valid as they exclude the fact that Nikola One’s features were designed by Adriano Mudri.

Founded in 2009 by Mate Rimac, Rimac Automobili is a Croatian company manufacturing electric sports cars, drivetrains and battery systems. Adriano has been the Director of Design since 2010 focusing on new projects such as the electric hypercar.
 
Read the Hindenberg Report here, which outlines shocking claims of false statements made by Nikola Founder, Trevor Milton. Seems Milton was getting desperate to catch up to its rival, Tesla.

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