In May 2016, Nikola unveiled its first two products to the public, including the hydrogen semi in question and an electric four-wheel off-road vehicle. The company's prototype was unveiled in Salt Lake City on December 1 of that year. The patent lawsuit (PDF) was filed in US District Court for the Federal District of Arizona.
Now, there's a $2 billion lawsuit to add to the mix. "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".
Tesla has not yet begun regular production of its semi-truck, but plans to do so next year. The lawsuit alleges that Tesla stole over three different design aspects that both trucks share. Tesla unveiled its truck in November 2017, although CEO Elon Musk had discussed it for some time prior to that.
The lawsuit, filed in Arizona, follows a cease-and-desist letter from Nikola to Tesla in November previous year, pointing out similar features, including a wraparound windshield, mid-entry door and aerodynamic fuselage. The six patents deal with the wrap windshield, mid-entry door, fuselage, fender, side cladding, and final design of the Nikola One semi truck.
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".
"Tesla has never claimed that its design was unique".
In the complaint, Nikola alleges that Tesla's design "has caused confusion among customers", and that any more stumbles on Musk's part could damage its own brand. "Should these problems arise with the Tesla Semi, the market will attribute these problems to Nikola because of the similarities between the two vehicles", the complaint states. Nikola claims to have formally asked them to delay the Semi unveiling until things got sorted out. Nikola, meanwhile, also wants to turn the truck industry green, though it is focusing on the hydrogen fuel-cell technology that will power rigs like its heavy-duty Nikola One. To support the range-extender, Nikola has plans to build 364 fueling stations this year. In addition to moving its headquarters to Phoenix, Nikola is building a one-million-square-foot manufacturing facility in Buckeye, Arizona.
A Tesla spokesperson downplayed the lawsuit in a statement to the Verge, while a Nikola rep refused to comment.
Nikola claimed it sent a letter to Tesla in November 2017 informing the company that its design included features that Nikola was seeking patent protection for.
Pun intended, we assume.