The bad blood between Nikola and Tesla has escalated.
Last month, Nikola Motors raised eyebrows by taking a swipe at Elon Musk’s electric Semi truck project on Twitter. And this week, the company announced it is suing Tesla for $2 billion in damages, alleging that Musk’s company infringed on U.S. patents received by Nikola for cab design features.
Nikola's complaint specifically cited its wrap-around windshield, mid-cab door design, fuselage and fenders, as well as side cladding and the overall design of the Semi truck.
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. In a statement to HDT, a Nikola spokesperson said, “The lawsuit speaks for itself. We are simply protecting our intellectual property.”
Nikola filed for its patents in December 2015 and announced in May 2016 that it was designing and intended to build an electric Class 8 truck. The company contends that Tesla had not announced plans to enter the electric truck market prior to that time.
Two months later, in July of 2016, Musk announced that Tesla was working on an electric truck of its own and intended to unveil it in 2017.
Nikola responded by previewing its electric design to the North American press in December of 2016. Nearly a year later, Tesla unveiled its Semi truck at an event in Hawthorne, California, with major orders from high profile fleets quickly following. Nikola has claimed since then that Tesla’s market value rose by approximately $2 billion in the wake of the Semi truck launch.
Prior to the Semi launch in November of last year, Nikola sent a letter to Tesla, according to the complaint, detailing the similar design features on both trucks and demanding that Tesla postpone unveiling the truck until its infringement claims were resolved. Tesla ignored that request, according to Nikola.
Nikola was awarded its patents between February and April 2018 and claims in its complaint that Tesla has no similar patents of its own.
In a statement to HDT, a Tesla spokesperson said, “It is patently obvious there is no merit to this lawsuit.”