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Tesla Semi rival Nikola sues for $2 billion over alleged patent infringement

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Nikola Corporation v Tesla truck patent lawsuit | Patent | Vehicles

Damages are sought in part because Nikola has lost business to Tesla and because they fear brand confusion will hurt them by association with battery fires and deadly autopilot. Nikola also states Tesla uses deposits for operations.

I cannot speak to the patent law issues but the language and timing suggest a spiteful hand behind the pen.
Sour Grapes!!

Tesla Inc. established July 1, 2003
Nikola Motor Company established 2014

............11 years later

Nikola says it intends to develop a network of 350 hydrogen fueling stations across North America for its trucks, beginning in 2018. It would be similar to the Supercharger network Tesla has been building to support long distance travel for its fleet of electric cars. But here’s the rub.

Hydrogen refueling stations cost $2 million or more to construct. It is estimated that a typical Tesla Supercharger location costs about one tenth as much to build.

Who incorporates a company 11 years after Elon and calls it Nikola, the first name of Nikola Tesla, and figures
there will not be any consumer confusion?
I would say the Tesla Semi shares more traits with this concept from 2013: MAN's New Concept S Cargo Truck is More Efficient, Larger and Safer

Especially the wheel arches and doors. Can't Tesla simply point to this concept and say that this was the inspiration?

I'm not too familiar with patent law. I personally think most of the design-lawsuits are ridiculous. Like when Apple sued Samsung for having rounded corners. (But I believe Apple won that lawsuit, so I don't feel 100% comfortable with this lawsuit either.)
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What a load of hydrogen sulfide.
  • You can't sue/ infringe based on a provisional patent application, period. Nikola's design patents were awarded March/April this year. So nothing from before then could be infringment at the time.
  • Even when if was a granted design patent, you can't sue for infringement when it hasn't been sold yet (and you have no direct damages).
  • Even if there were sales involved, you can only be awarded an amount related to the feature, not the full item price.
You also can't (successfully) sue someone just for making a better product.

From this site:
Design patent infringement occurs when a company or person violates a design patent's terms. A design patent protects a manufactured product's ornamental features. To claim infringement, you must prove that an ordinary observer wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a patented object's design and an accused object's design when both designs are side by side.

3rd party opinion:

As if anyone will confuse a Tesla semi with a Nikola truck with the ugly grill

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As part of a unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court justices overturned the earlier decision made in Apple's favor. The court's opinion stated that an award for damages for design patent infringement may be restricted to profits that a company can attribute to a part of an article of manufacture, not the entire product itself.
Mongo beat me to it..

“Tesla’s infringement has harmed Nikola’s ability to attract investors and partners because investors can now partner with Tesla to have an alternative fuel semi-truck. Nikola estimates its harm from Tesla’s infringement to be in excess of $2 billion.”

It's called competition. Get used to it.

“It’s patently obvious there is no merit to this lawsuit,” the Tesla spokesperson said.

I see what you did there, Tesla spokesperson. :)
Elon obviously got the design of the Semi from The Big Bus (1976) - IMDb

Notice the 'wrap-around windshield'

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Diversion of sales is their main basis. @mongo posted useful points but I think the lawsuit isn't meritless. The other prior art is Nikolas biggest hurdle. They've done nothing that is that unique. The design patent will get knocked out in invalidity.

Lawsuit from FUD POV might be useful, but on its merits, it seems very weak...
There were design patents that were granted to Nikola, but those only protect against a level of similarity that would confuse an ordinary person and copies the new novel aspects from prior art. Lots of cases here.
Hydrogen refueling stations cost $2 million or more to construct. It is estimated that a typical Tesla Supercharger location costs about one tenth as much to build.
I don't want to go too far off topic here, but for $2M you get a refuelling station that can fill up one Toyota Mirai every half an hour. The Hydrogen is generated on the spot by reforming methane using steam. The problem is that the Hydrogen has to be seriously compressed, and compressing it heats it up, so you have to cool it down. So the station stores enough (20-30kg) for one car, but then has to generate, cool and store more before it's ready again. Truckers already worry about the charging time of Electrics, they are not going to take kindly to arriving at the H2 station only to find that they have to wait an hour for it to be ready for them to refill. Bottom line is that these stations for Nikola will cost a lot more than $2M each.