It has just been announced that Force India’s case against 1 Malaysia, the owner of Team Lotus, for infringement of intellectual property, will be heard in the High Court in London on January 16 2012.
Force India is also pursuing Lotus Technical director Mike Gascoyne personally as well as Aerolab, the wind tunnel where the two teams were working on cars when the alleged IP leakage is said to have occured.
This may prove to be Lotus’ third appearance in the High Court in 12 months, following the one starting two weeks today between Group Lotus and 1 Malaysia Group over the termination of the licence to use the Lotus name in F1. Depending on the outcome of that hearing, another case to settle the dispute as to who is the real Lotus in F1 may follow in the Autumn.
In a briefing note to journalists, Force India says that it “believes that Aerolab Srl. may have, during the course of its contract with the team, disclosed Force India F1 Team Ltd.’s intellectual property to 1 Malaysia Racing Team Ltd. and Mike Gascoyne, with whom Aerolab Srl. was at that time working through a sister company. The intellectual property was used in the development of the Lotus T127.”
There are also proceedings in the Italian court on this matter, with the same plaintiffs plus Tony Fernandes and the director of Aerolab, Jean Claude Migeot, a former F1 designer.
1 Malaysia did not have a great deal of time to design and develop a car. It was granted an entry for 2010 on 12 September 2009, just six months before the first race of 2010.
Gascoyne had used Aerolab for wind tunnel work when he was technical director of Spyker and then briefly Force India, before he and Vijay Mallya’s team went their separate ways.
But in November, Force India became concerned when Lotus issued a photo of its design in the wind tunnel and Force India felt that there was some cross over in the front wing design in particular. At the time they also noted that the Lotus was fitted with their wind-tunnel tyres.
At the time Gascoyne pointed out that the wind tunnel model was made by Fomtech and observed, “Some of the staff had been working on different projects. And whereas you cannot copy anything or take anyone else’s IP, you can use your expertise – and you will base that on what you know and what directions you know have been happening. That is what has happened.”