Brief: Nikola sues Tesla over semi patents

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Tesla's planned new truck infringes three design patents owned by a competitor, according to a lawsuit filed yesterday. The complaint outlines specific design patents for the Nikola One, the company's latest hydrogen-electric truck, it believes were infringed upon by Elon Musk's company.

In response to the lawsuits filing, a spokesperson for Tesla is reported to have rejected the claims being made.

Nikola filed for its patents in December 2015 and announced in May 2016 that it was designing and meant to build an electric Class 8 truck. Six months later, just days before Tesla would reveal its Tesla Semi truck at a splashy event, Nikola sent a letter demanding the company not proceed with the unveiling until the patent infringement was resolved, the lawsuit says.

Putting a price tag on that damage comes to $2 billion, according to the law suit.

Notably, Electrek does a great job of pointing out that wrap windshields on trucks have been around forever and is hardly a unique design stumbled upon by Nikola.

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Interestingly, the suit claims that Tesla went so far as to try and recruit Nikola's chief engineer for its own efforts with the Tesla Semi. "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".

Nikola claims in its complaint that it has pre-sold about 7,000 trucks and that "total reservations are now worth more than $6.3 billion in revenue". Nearly immediately, Tesla received orders for its Semi. The confusion has diverted sales from Nikola to Tesla. For example, Tesla has had problems with its batteries starting fires and its autonomous features causing fatal accidents. "We believe the Tesla Semi will deliver a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transport, while increasing safety and making it really fun to operate", Musk said at the time. Nikola's truck has a mid-entry door, "another first in the trucking industry", as does the Tesla truck.

In January of this year, Nikola announced plans to build a 1 million square-foot plant in Phoenix to produce both the Nikola One and smaller Nikola Two models, with the facility expected to be completed in 2024.

A Tesla spokesperson downplayed the lawsuit in a statement to the Verge, while a Nikola rep refused to comment.