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Costs awarded in Force India vs Caterham copyright case
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Posted By: James Allen  |  04 May 2012   |  6:02 pm GMT  |  31 comments

Caterham technical director Mike Gascoyne has been awarded £400,000 in costs as the legal dispute between Force India and 1 Malaysia Racing Team (now known as Caterham, formerly Team Lotus) moved another step closer to conclusion today.

In the original judgement in March, the judge found that a copyright infringement had taken place, but that it was not the ‘systematic copying’ which Force India alleged. He found that the windtunnel supplier Aerolab had misused Force India’s confidential information when Team Lotus was in a rush to design its first F1 car ahead of the 2010 F1 season. But he cleared Gascoyne of any wrongdoing, accepting that he was too busy setting up the team to have got involved at that level of design detail.

The judge at the time awarded Force India damages of €25,000, which Force India were not happy with. They pointed to a photo published by 1MRT in 2009 which showed a wind tunnel model with Bridgestone wind tunnel tyres, which the company did not have a contract for. They also questioned how 1MRT could have got a wind tunnel model together two months after being granted an entry. They also saw elements of their car, which had had work done on it by Aerolab, replicated on the Team Lotus car. 1MRT denied copying, but Force India decided to raise a complaint.

This goes back to the rather acrimonious way in which Gascoyne parted ways with Force India in particular his relationship with deputy team principal Robert Fearnley. Fearnley dismissed Gascoyne, who brought a wrongful dismissal action against them.

The FIA didn’t want to take up Force India’s complaint, the Italian courts did and that case is ongoing, while they also took it up in a UK civil court the outcome of which is now resolved.

Gascoyne’s costs relate to the period since November 2011 when his lawyers wrote to Force India to suggest that they drop the action as no evidence had been established against him. By continuing the action beyond that point Force India became liable for the higher level of costs if they could not prove wrongdoing.

1MRT was also awarded costs of £250,000.

Force India has subsequently issued a statement on the latest verdict this evening, stating that “the interim costs payments awarded to Mr Gascoyne and 1 Malaysia Racing in today’s ruling are more than covered by funds already provided by Sahara Force India Formula One Team as security for costs pending the outcome of the case”.

The team also commented on its attempts to appeal the size of the compensation fee from Aerolab: “In a curtailed hearing today at London’s High Court, the ruling on Sahara Force India Formula One Team’s application for permission to appeal was postponed with a further hearing expected in the coming weeks.

“The appeal relates to the 25,000 Euros of damages that Aerolab and Fondtech were ordered to pay Sahara Force India Formula One Team for misuse of confidential information.”

To date, the FIA have given no indication they will investigate this case. Force India believe that some of the components the court found had been copied, like parts of the brake ducts, wings, barge boards and vortex generator are covered in the Concorde Agreement and therefore replication on other cars is illegal. It remains to be seen whether any more action takes place on this story within the FIA. The Italian case (Aerolab is in Italy) is ongoing.

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31 Comments
  1. Kevin Irwin says:

    If it was McLaren with Ferrari info you can bet the FIA would be on their case from the get go, I often wonder at the double standards

    1. k5enny says:

      As Bernie said a few weeks ago — who cares who finishes 9th or 11th??

      If you were to copy someone – wouldnt it be best to copy a competitive car ??

      1. Iwan Kemp says:

        Yes, in a qualifying session where Alonso finished 9th and Kimi 11th. !

    2. Harry Roberts says:

      No need to wonder at all Mr Irwin.

      Renault and Toyota have been caught after and before the McLaren case respectively, cheating far worse, company wide and endemic, rather than McLaren’s case which was limited to a few employees, including a driver desperate to beat his rookie teammate.

      The fact that that driver publicly also added public blackmail to his list of totally unpunished crimes, yet got off scot free, as did Renault and Toyota, says it all.

      Toyota interestingly did get banned from the WRC for cheating with their Turbo restrictors, but in F1 cheats are almost always unpunished, Schumacher won at least one WDC with a clearly illegal car [launch control, option 13] and also was allowed to keep a WDC despite clearly driving into Damon Hill deliberately. For those people who still like to deny this, please post up all the other examples of cars that have crashed, yet rejoin the track and damage others ?

      1. Ross Dixon says:

        I agree 100% with this comment. The Mclaren witch hunt was ridiculous. At the time the comment was that Mclaren are responsible for all their staff. So if this is the case then so are Ferrari. In tha case a Ferrari staff member (Ferrari) gave info to Mclaren. So how can’t Ferarri be annoyed?!?! When you then find out about Renault with a disk of info stolen from Mclaren and nothing is done, it is just ridiculous!!!

      2. Rach says:

        Mark Webber on Nico Rosberg in Korea ’10?

      3. hero_was_senna says:

        No argument with any of your comment, but wasn’t the illegal car (launch control, option 13) also the same car that drove into Hill? In 1994.

        Mclaren was also investigated by the FIA at the Imola GP 1994, as were Ferrari and Benetton and initially refused to hand over computer coding because they felt the experts wouldn’t be impartial.
        Mosley said these experts also worked on high level government secret systems and F1 was just a sport…
        Out of the three, Ferrari was the only team that handed over all requested information.

        What tickles me to this day, is that Ferrari is always seen as this villainous mafioso corporation.

        Yet over the years, it’s all other teams that have been found guilty.
        Williams and Tyrrell ran water tanks in the 1984 Brazilian GP.
        Tyrrell were punished for lead ballast in 1984 also.
        Toyota as mentioned cheated with turbo’s on their rally cars.
        Renault with crash gate but also copying Mclaren secrets in 2007. The only reason they weren’t punished was because they admitted to it immediately.
        Mclaren with their 2007 spy gate.

        It’s ironic really, that the closest Ferrari came to rules being broken was whilst Schumacher and Brawn were there.
        It’s never been their style.
        Yet it’s within Brawn’s remit.
        His time at Benetton shows this clearly. At Ferrari and then Brawn, he has never been afraid of going beyond the spirit of the rules.
        Even the infamous accident by Schumacher at Monaco 2006, was completely defended by Brawn and Todt. Yet LDM never uttered a word in defence.

    3. hero_was_senna says:

      To be fair, the FIA in 2007 was dominated by Mosley, who had personal issues with Ron Dennis.

      Todt, for all his faults whilst in charge of Ferrari, seems a more settled individual regarding rules and regulations within F1.

      1. Craig says:

        Respectfully, in my opinion, the FIA was/is dominated by only 1 individual; Enter stage left:- Billionaire Bernard.

        Mosley may have had issues with RD but it is on the record that a wee guy called Bernard holds real personal issues with RD.
        In my opinion, Mosley wasn’t the only one who wanted Ron to receive a good spanking [as it were]. ;)

  2. KGBVD says:

    Is anyone’s nose clean in F1?

    Who would have thought the worlds of engineering, sports, finance and espionage would come together so eloquently.

  3. franed says:

    “like parts of the brake ducts, wings, barge boards and vortex generator are covered in the Concorde Agreement and therefore replication on other cars is illegal.”
    So, more of the rules being hidden in the Concorde Agreement, these should all be part of the tech regs open and for all to see.

    I have a growing resentment for a sport which keeps half the rules a secret. The CA is supposed to be about the money side, the agreement between FOM the teams and the FIA, instead it is now being used to impose secret rules.

    The copying of a design is a patent or copyright infringement a civil matter and not illegal. At lease not in the uk.

    1. hero_was_senna says:

      From what I understand, no parts on an F1 car has ever been submitted for patents or copyright.
      The laws that govern this just simply take to long to make it worthwhile.
      I believe also that if a team came up with a copyrighted idea that gave them an advantage, the FIA has it within its power to ban it.

  4. T Nelan Esq says:

    Hi James,
    Thanks for the great article. All of us lawyers like to hear about the legal side of F1 too sometimes, so keep up the good work on that front.
    Here’s a friendly pointer for the next legal based article you write. There’s no need to publish it, it wouldn’t be of interest to many people. Anyway, here it is:
    It’s about the word “judgement” which you used.
    When you use that word in relation to a decision of a court, it is actually spelled “judgment”. The “e” is missing. I don’t know why it is like that, it just is.
    Cheers!

    1. Craig says:

      Respectfully, when one refers to a ‘judgment’ which has been declared / opined [in Scotland]. One refers in the past tense, i.e. the ‘judgement’.
      The article is 100% correct.

      Pls accept my advice FOC.

      As your good self being a Lawyer, I fully accept the term FOC will also confuse.

    2. Paul says:

      I’m sure James will put his fee in the post ;)

    3. mm says:

      Are you sure, Mr Esquire?

    4. Kay says:

      +1 on this =)

    5. Aryan says:

      It is that way because in old Bible translations, that word was spelt as judgment, à là Judgment Day. So in legal context it has kept that spelling in the UK and Canada while in non legal texts judgement is the preferred spelling.

      1. hero_was_senna says:

        There’s a whole industry that has developed, which explains why so many legal terms and other international government anomalies exist.

        I would never question anyone’s faith but to quote a book written supposedly 2,000 years ago in a language (ancient Hebrew) that doesn’t exist anymore is nonsense.
        To qualify my statement, if you ask me what I did last Tuesday, I’d have a fair idea. Maybe even a month ago.
        But ask me what I was doing in January 2011, unless I kept a diary, I wouldn’t have a clue.
        Yet the “Church” expects me to believe that 4 men, all wrote the Gospels 30 or so years after Christ’s death.

        I saw a DVD extra about the film “Passion of the Christ”
        They had employed the foremost ancient Hebrew language expert to write the dialogue for the film and he admitted that many words had to be “invented” because they had no modern equivalent.

        Read Chaucer or Shakespear and see how much you understand without further study. These are books only 500 years old.
        Language changes, but the legal system, the religions, all continue grasping anxiously at the remnants of their proud rules.

      2. Randy_Torres says:

        Sorry, but I do believe that the Old Testament was actually written in Greek. Also the ancient Hebrew that you refer to I believe was called Aramaic. As to judgement vs. judgment I am going to guess that Mr. T (Nelan Esq.) is an American lawyer (as am I by the way) hence, the preference for judgment when writing and/or speaking in “legalese”.

  5. Dizzy says:

    off topic i know but plz sign-up & vote in this poll:
    http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2012/05/04/f1-change-tyre-strategy/

    1. hero_was_senna says:

      I’m sorry, I won’t. I feel that all motorsport at the top level should be a mixture of abilities. Whatever the rules are at any given time.
      I cannot believe how caught up in this argument people are becoming!

  6. stephengreen says:

    FIA’s reluctance to get involved in a proven, in a court of law, case of cheating, highlights the shameful witch hunt of Mclaren. That is if the case of Renault’s and, (also proven in a court of law) Toyota,didn’t already.

    1. Steven says:

      You cant blame the whole of the FIA for that, the finger must be pointed at Max Moxley for the McLaren witch hunt.

      1. stephengreen says:

        Even though Max seemed to act in a dictatorial manner, he couldn’t sanction anything, without the support of the rest of the FIA electorate.

  7. AMSG says:

    Slippery old VJ still trying to wriggle out of paying his bills, this is all it’s about.
    This guy is all about image. His airline has never made a single cent in profit. Without the Sahara money, he would have been out of F1.
    His 2 drivers deserve better.

    1. Edison says:

      That’s right, about image, Vajay Mallya has very bad image.

    2. fastpete says:

      +1

    3. hero_was_senna says:

      By all accounts, his airline is having to pay cash for fuels etc.
      There is no-one in India willing to support him.

      He took over from his father following his death in 1983. I have no idea of how big a company he was left with but it seems that his businesses are collapsing.

  8. Keith says:

    If you spend around an hour or more and read all the court transcripts of the hearing and background notes and statements, then one wonders why Force India ever in their right mind would waste time and limited resources on this case.

    They, Force India, have been a bit economical with the truth in the court, and the judge has pulled them up on these points. The funds that Force India had to put up were the outstanding Invoices they owned to AreoLabs for work done, not what has been awarded since. Force India has funding problems, and that came out in the court statements, provided mostly from the AeroLabs side as to why they haven’t been paid, and why they stopped all work on the aero package for Force India.

    AreoLabs appear from the court papers to have acted in a pretty professional way throughout the change over, and taking on a new Client.
    The whole set of court action from Force India appears to be around the fact that there is limited amount of funds, and that stalling tactics need to be applied. They should have paid out his contract, and now have to plus his fees, when they could have settled it.

    More info – designs setups move between teams with changes of Driver, engineers, and from taking a few pictures while the car is out on the track, than what Force India are claiming.

  9. anonymous says:

    Isn’t it funny? Aerolab was actually developing stuff for Force India, but they weren’t fully paid for it. Isn’t it a bit fishy to claim that this was Force India’s intellectual property?
    Naive as I am in things like legal terms, laws and stuff, I would think that something I sell is actually mine, until fully paid by the customer. And as long as it is mine, I have the right to what ever I like with it. Like using it as starting point in my work for my next customer.

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