A judgement has come out in the Force India legal case against Caterham over alleged intellectual property theft – and both sides are claiming a win.
Force India issued a statement this morning saying that the judge had found “Team Lotus (now known as Caterham) and Aerolab liable for copyright infringement and using confidential information respectively. Some parts created using Force India confidential information were used on the Team Lotus race cars in the early part of the 2010 season.” Force India has referred the judgement to the FIA, who fined McLaren $100 million for taking Ferrari Intellectual Property in 2007.
The case relates to the development of the 2010 Team Lotus car (the previous name of Caterham team) and work carried out by wind tunnel company Aerolab, which had previously worked with Force India. It started when Aerolab sued Force India for unpaid bills and Force India countersued for “misuse of confidential information relating to the design of a wind tunnel model as well as claims for infringement of copyright.”
This related to CAD designs for a wind tunnel model. Force India was seeking £15 million in damages, reduced to £13 million during the trial, but has ended up with substantially less than this; €25,000. Aerolab accepted that some of their employees had copied some of the Force India designs and offered to settle the case before it came to court with a payment of €250,000, but Force India declined the offer.
The judge ordered Force India to pay Aerolab €846,230 in respect of the claim for unpaid bills.
Force India believed that Team Lotus/Caterham engineers had copied files on a large scale, but the court found only that some copied files were in a large batch of their own files given to them by Aerolab engineers.
Honourable Mr Justice Arnold decided that Aerolab had misused certain of Force India’s confidential information as a means of taking a ‘short cut’ to produce a wind tunnel model which could begin to be used for testing as soon as possible. He was also satisfied that a “small number” of components had ended up on the first Lotus/Caterham F1 car in 2010.
He said that Force India had come “nowhere near” establishing systematic copying of files and found Lotus/Caterham and its technical director Mike Gascoyne were not liable.
Aerolab, accepting that some of their CAD engineers had done the wrong thing, had indemnified Lotus/Caterham and Gascoyne in any case.
There is clearly considerable animosity between Gascoyne and Force India boss Vijay Mallya. Gascoyne sued the team for wrongful dismissal over his sacking as technical director and this case is the latest in the series of spats. Gascoyne was delighted with the judge’s ruling,
“Just to put the record straight I was totally cleared of any wrongdoing and all the claims made against me by Force India were dismissed,” he said on Twitter.