by Fred Lambert
October 4, 2021
Tesla, which is already suing Rivian and former employees hired by the electric pickup truck startup, is expanding its lawsuit against the company. It now claims that Rivian is stealing its “trade secrets” about battery technology.
Rivian has been one if not the most serious electric vehicle startup since Tesla, and part of why the company is seen as a more serious new entry in what is becoming a more crowded space is its tendency to follow in Tesla’s footsteps. The company has made several moves that many EV experts, including ourselves at Electrek, thought contributed significantly to Tesla’s success in the EV space.
Tesla also forgoes the third-party franchise model for sales and service that is the norm for cars in North America. Instead, the automaker opted to deploy its own company-owned network of stores and service centers, as well as using mobile technicians.
At the time Tesla filed the lawsuit, it wasn’t clear what exact trade secrets Tesla was claiming Rivian was stealing, but we noted that the employees listed in the lawsuits were two recruiters, an EHS manager, and a manager of Tesla’s charging networks. The automaker claimed that these employees brought “documents consisting of highly sensitive trade secret, confidential, and proprietary engineering information” when they went to work to Rivian.
Tesla has now expanded its lawsuit to more specific claims of stealing trade secrets. It filed to add new claims that Rivian is “stealing the core technology for its next-generation batteries” (via Bloomberg): The world’s leading electric-vehicle maker says the lawsuit it filed 14 months ago against Rivian hasn’t stopped the startup from raiding its staff and looting its intellectual property. That includes one instance this summer where Tesla defectors were “caught red-handed” stealing the core technology for its next-generation batteries, “the most essential element for any electric vehicle,” according to a court filing last month.
Tesla added the new claims to the lawsuit just as Rivian is preparing the first deliveries of its R1T electric pickup truck. The automaker took a jab at them for not having delivered the vehicle yet: “Now apparently under pressure from investors after nearly a dozen years without producing a single commercial vehicle, Rivian has intensified its unlawful efforts…”
It also comes as Rivian is filing for a public offering that would value them at $80 billion to $100 billion. In adding these new claims, Tesla is now adding five more former employees in the lawsuits. A judge overseeing the case in California has agreed to add the new claims to the lawsuit. Rivian has yet to comment on the new allegations.