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Tesla widens its legal action against Rivian over alleged theft of battery secrets

Credit: Tesla Inc.

Tesla inc. is widening its legal action against fellow electric vehicle maker Rivian Automotive Inc., with the former accusing the latter of continuing to poach its employees and stealing “highly proprietary” technology related to batteries. Battery tech is among Tesla’s most closely-held innovations, which makes the company’s new legal action quite understandable. 

According to Tesla, the lawsuit it filed against Rivian 14 months ago has not stopped the pickup truck maker from poaching its employees and acquiring intellectual property. To highlight this point, Tesla noted that this summer, there was an instance where defectors to Rivian were “caught red-handed” stealing the core technology for its next-generation batteries. Tesla notes that batteries are the “most essential element for any electric vehicle.”

“Now apparently under pressure from investors after nearly a dozen years without producing a single commercial vehicle, Rivian has intensified its unlawful efforts,” Tesla noted. 

Tesla is particularly secretive about its batteries. Even with the company’s open patent program — which arguably helped companies like Xpeng Motors from China launch their own EV efforts — Tesla has been very careful not to share the intricate details of its batteries, from the 18650 cells used in the Model S and Model X to the 2170 cells used in the Model 3 and Model Y and to the 4680 cells that are currently being ramped in the Kato Road facility in Fremont, California. 

In comparison, Rivian uses 2170 cells from Samsung SDI for the R1T pickup truck and R1S SUV. The truck maker has been quite silent about its battery strategy, however, so it remains to be seen if Rivian’s 2170 cells are off-the-shelf or if they feature proprietary chemistries similar to the 2170 cells produced by Tesla and Panasonic in Gigafactory Nevada. The company has also not revealed any plans to shift to another battery form factor in the future either. 

Rivian has so far declined to comment about Tesla’s widened lawsuit. The company is currently planning an initial public offering. Previous Bloomberg reports note that Rivian is looking to raise about $80 billion for its IPO. 

Tesla’s initial lawsuit against Rivian, which was filed last year, alleged that the truck maker was engaging in trade secret theft through employees that are reportedly being poached from Tesla. The California-based EV maker accused Rivian of acquiring proprietary information related to its recruiting process, bonus and compensation plan for sales personnel, and manufacturing project management systems, to name a few. Rivian formally requested to have Tesla’s claims dismissed in court, though a California state judge in San Jose allowed the case to continue. 

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Tesla widens its legal action against Rivian over alleged theft of battery secrets
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