Car Industry

Tesla sued for $2B by Nikola Motor over design patents

Three specific design cues are at the heart of the big-money allegations regarding semi truck designs.

Tesla

A startup intent on building hydrogen fuel-cell trucks is taking Tesla to court, alleging that the two companies' truck designs are too similar.

Nikola Motor Company filed a lawsuit this week against Tesla over allegations of design-patent infringement, Reuters reports. In the filing, Utah-based Nikola alleges that Tesla's infringement has harmed the company to the tune of some $2 billion, because it has "caused confusion among customers," the suit states.

The suit focuses on three key parts of the Tesla Semi. Nikola claims Tesla infringed upon design patents for the cab's silhouette, its wraparound windshield and its mid-entry door.

"It's patently obvious there is no merit to this lawsuit," a Tesla spokesperson said via email. 

A Nikola spokeswoman said via email that the company won't provide additional comment on the lawsuit, which "speaks for itself."

Tesla unveiled its Semi last November. It relies entirely upon electricity, with an estimated range of 500 miles with its largest battery equipped. The Tesla Semi has a center-mounted driver's seat, rear wheel spats and an estimated production date of 2019. Prototypes have already been spotted driving on public roads.

Nikola first emerged from stealth in 2016 with a semi that claimed 1,200 miles of range from a combination of batteries and a natural-gas-powered turbine. The powertrain was later changed to a hydrogen fuel-cell design. In early April, the company made the decision to no longer require deposits for its truck, intending to refund every $1,500 deposit it currently possesses. With thousands of claimed orders, the company estimates production kicking off after 2020. It also plans to produce an electric UTV called the Zero in 2019.