Force India opens legal action against Lotus and Aerolab

Force India has opened legal proceedings against Lotus Racing, its Chief Technical Officer Mike Gascoyne and Aerolab/Fondtech over claims that all three parties used its intellectual property without consent.

Both Force India and Lotus have extensively used the Italian wind tunnel in the past, with the former believing that the latter used its ideas when developing the current Lotus T127.

As a result the Silverstone-based team has launched legal action in both the United Kingdom and in Italy against the Lotus team and the wind tunnel itself.

A statement from Force India read: “The Force India F1 team confirms it has instigated UK civil proceedings against 1Malaysia Racing Team SDN BHD [a Malaysian company], 1Malaysia Racing Team [UK] Limited [Lotus Racing’s parent companies], Michael Gascoyne and Aerolab SRL.

“Force India also confirms that a complaint for disclosure of confidential information was filed in December 2009 with the competent authorities in Italy and that investigations are being conducted.

“Force India believes that Lotus Racing, via its use of Aerolab and Fondtech facilities and data, has utilised and benefited from the use of Force India F1 team’s intellectual property, including components and tyres exclusively licensed by Bridgestone to the Force India F1 team, on its wind tunnel model design for the current Lotus T127 chassis without permission from the Force India F1 team.

“Force India states these are very serious claims and therefore it would not be taking such action if it could not provide supportive evidence.”

The team are already involved in a legal battle with Aerolab/Fondtech over an undue termination of contract. However while this case is still ongoing, Force India used the statement to clarify that today’s announcement is a separate matter.

“Additionally, Force India would like to clarify that any action between Aerolab and Force India for undue termination of contract is now being addressed by the courts.” the statement continued.

“Force India confirms it paid approximately one million euros in autumn 2009 to secure the payment claimed by Aerolab and it is now for the competent courts to decide whether, indeed, this outstanding amount should be paid to Aerolab given the seriousness of these current allegations.”

Lotus also released a statement on the matter, claiming:  “Lotus Racing has been joined as a co-defendant in civil proceedings which are principally between Force India and Aerolab/Fondtech.

“These proceedings do not allege any wrong doing on the part of Lotus Racing.

“Aerolab/Fondtech vigorously denies any wrong doing and has provided Lotus Racing with a full indemnity in relation to the claim.”

The news comes on the same day that Lotus announced the signing of Mark Smith from Force India to become its technical director – with design team members Lewis Butler and Marianne Hinson also leaving the Silverstone-based team for Norfolk.