In November of 2017, Tesla grabbed global headlines when it unveiled its semi truck. Although this fully electric beast is still in development, Tesla has already secured orders from UPS, FedEx, and Walmart. When released, Tesla Semi has the potential to revolutionize the trucking and delivery industries. The futuristic design of Tesla Semi captured the attention of many, including Tesla’s competitor Nikola. A few months after the unveiling, Nikola sued Tesla for design patent infringement, seeking $2 billion in damages. Now, Tesla wants to flip the script.

The Road Runner Concept Truck

In its most recent court filing, Tesla alleged that Nikola stole the truck design from a Michelin design competition participant Adriano Mudri, who came up with a concept truck called the Road Runner.

Specifically, Tesla alleged that Nikola’s design is a result of collaboration with the Road Runner truck designer Adriano Mudri. Furthermore, Tesla asserted that the “Road Runner concept truck design constituted a significant inventive contribution to the inventions claimed in [Nikola’s] Design Patents.” Next, Tesla accused Nikola of “intentionally concealing” the Road Runner design from the Patent Office and failing to list Adriano Mudri as a co-inventor. On these grounds, Tesla requested the court to invalidate Nikola’s patents.

S&H Take

In the hands of a good attorney, automotive design patents can become a powerful weapon against competitors. Indeed, Smith & Hopen managing partner Anton Hopen recently made an informative video report on this exact topic. Anton, Nick, and I love our Teslas and strongly support the company’s revolutionary vision. However, in this case, Tesla might be in some legal trouble. Earlier this month, the judge already ruled that

“the side-by-side visual comparisons of the challenged features, leave no doubt that Nikola has plausibly alleged claims for design patent infringement.” Nikola Corp. v. Tesla, Inc., Case No. 3:18-cv-07460-JD, 3 (N.D. Cal. Sep. 9, 2020).

Thus, if Tesla does convince the court that Nikola stole its design from the Road Runner concept truck, Tesla will likely have to shell out a significant chunk of cash. We’ll be watching this case closely.