Silicon Valley’s green car fisticuffs is going into round two this week. According to CNET, electric vehicle company Fisker Automotive, maker of the Karma, plans to file for arbitration today in an attempt to derail the suit filed by competitor Tesla, which accuses Fisker of stealing trade secrets. The report says that Fisker will attempt to move the case to Orange County and alleges that filing the suit in San Mateo, Calif., was a breach of contract.
Tesla says that when it hired Henrik Fisker, founder of Fisker Automotive, last year to work on the body of Tesla’s sedan, both the company and its COO, Bernhard Koehler, walked away from the $875,000 contract with trade secrets and launched their own competing car.
While fights among competitors in the Valley’s very small world aren’t uncommon, this one is particularly interesting because each startup is backed by competing venture firms. Tesla is backed by VantagePoint Venture Partners, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and individual investors, among them the firm’s own Elon Musk, Jeff Skoll, and Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Fisker, on the other hand, is backed by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and has KP’s Ray Lane on its board.
Fisker officially responded to Tesla’s suit in April, calling it “nonsense” and said it would “vigorously defend” itself from “these meritless claims.” The release in April also alleged that Tesla broke an arbitration agreement by filing the suit in the first place. And at the Fortune conference, Kleiner Perkins partner and Fisker investor Ray Lane called the lawsuit “ridiculous.”
CNET says that Henrik Fisker detailed the company’s counterattack at Merriman Curhan Ford & Co.’s CleanTech Conference in New York. “It’s just sour grapes. That’s all I can make out of it,” Fisker said. Now that is too juicy.
Fisker also told CNET at the conference that the company is expecting to close a series C round of $65 million in June to work on its sedan, as well as develop a lower-priced electric vehicle over the next few years.