Wednesday, April 16, 2008, 4/16/2008 01:45:00 PM

Electric Sports Car Maker Tesla Motors Sues Fisker Coachbuild for Trade Secrets Theft

By Todd
Tesla Motors, the Silicon Valley maker of electric sports cars, filed suit in San Mateo Superior Court on Monday against a competing company and two of its employees, saying they stole some of Tesla’s design ideas and trade secrets.

Tesla, which has generated much interest among fans of cars and technology, recently started shipping a two-seat electric sports car in limited quantities. Last year it hired Henrik Fisker, a Danish-born designer who is known for his work on high-end exotic sports cars, to do the body design for a four-seat sedan, code-named White Star.

The Tesla lawsuit contends that Mr. Fisker and his chief operating officer, Bernhard Koehler, doing business under the name Fisker Coachbuild, fraudulently agreed to take on Tesla’s $875,000 design contract to gain access to confidential design information and trade secrets, then announced a competing vehicle. Last fall Mr. Fisker founded Fisker Automotive, which is backed by the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

“I think it’s ironic that Fisker chose to name his car the Karma, when what he’s done is very bad karma,” said Adam C. Belsky, a lawyer at Gross, Belsky & Alonso who represents Tesla.
Calls to Fisker Automotive were not returned. A person answering the phone at Finck & Dadras, the San Francisco law firm representing Fisker Coachbuild, said it was the firm’s policy not to comment on litigation.

Tesla executives said they decided not to use Mr. Fisker’s design and were starting over on the design for White Star when they discovered that Mr. Fisker was going into competition with them. The design switch caused a three- to six-month delay in production of the car, which is now scheduled to go on sale in 2010, the company said. Tesla is building a factory in New Mexico to manufacture the sedan.

“It caused a slight delay in White Star because we could not use the Fisker styling,” said Elon Musk, chairman of Tesla. “The styling was substandard compared to what he unveiled for his product. He gave us an inferior work product, and it’s obvious why.”

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

back to top