One could be guilty for assuming that Force India and Team Lotus are two teams that have spent almost as much time in the court rooms than on the circuit in the last 12 months.
For the former, they’ve been on the receiving end of legal writs and demands for money from sponsors and suppliers with whom it has allegedly breach contracts.
And for the latter, they have been part of a very ugly spat with the Group Lotus over the carmaker’s decision to terminate its license early and block the team from using the ‘Lotus’ moniker.
So what’s the case when Force India and Lotus are facing off against each other in court, with a hearing date set down for January 2012?
Well, here’s a crude summary: Force India is suing Team Lotus, claiming that the outfit and it’s technical boss Mike Gascoyne, and the Aerolab windtunnel company has breached Force India’s intellectual property rights.
|Force India claims that a wind-tunnel of its 2009 car left in the Aerolab facility was used as the basis for Lotus’ 2010 design of its T127 chassis. Are there enough similarities in appearance and performance to warrant this claim?|
Force India had a contract with Aerolab – an Italian-based company run by former F1 designer Jean-Claude Migeot – to develop aerodynamic components of its VJM02 and VJM03 chassis’, which the team claims the company ‘may have’ disclosed to Team Lotus, and that Team Lotus ‘may have used’ in the design and development of the Lotus T127.
Countering this, Migeot is in turn arguing that the legal action against him and Team Lotus stems from the fact that he sued Force India for failing to pay its bills it owed him for his services, and that Force India’s actions were simply a diversionary tactic to secure a (cheaper) out-of-court settlement.
Force India has earned a dreadful reputation when it comes to paying its bills on-time, and several creditors and sponsors have had to resort to the courts in order to secure monies owed. And just recently, the team would have had to financial settle with former driver Vitantonio Liuzzi, after it sacked him in spite of him holding a valid contract to drive for the team in 2011.
Quite why Migeot would even consider the sharing of intellectual property between teams is an argument that has not yet adequately been explained, for it’s certainly not in his interests to do so. The flipside piece is that Migeot’s compensation he is owed by Force India is still sitting in an escrow account until all other associated lawsuits are resolved. Would it not be unreasonable to assume that Force India might want to get some of that money back?
Furthermore, if Team Lotus had indeed have come across and used the Force India designs, then one would logically expect the T127 to have run at a similar pace to Force India. The 2009 and 2010 chassis’ attributed to Force India have both proven to have a fairly quick turn of pace, and yet Lotus never even came close to matching that kind of performance. Knowing the skills of Gascoyne and his design team, it would be a long bow to draw to successfully argue they copied the Force India designs and made just a balls-up of doing so…
In any way, it’ll now be up to the court system to try another Formula 1 case, with London’s High Court clearing its diary for the week commencing 16 January 2012 to hear the matter. Unless, of course, it can be resolved sooner…
[Original images via AUTOSPORT]
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