Auto designer Henrik Fisker filed a lawsuit against British automaker Aston Martin this week, accusing the company of civil extortion (PDF). Fisker says Aston Martin threatened to sue the designer if he showed off his new Force 1 luxury sports car at the Detroit Auto Show in mid-January.
Fisker is well-known in the auto design world. He served as the president of BMW’s DesignWorks before he was brought on at Aston Martin. According to Fisker’s complaint, Aston Martin sold only 400 vehicles per year in the mid-ninties, but by the time the two cars Fisker developed for Aston Martin were in production, global sales had grown to more than 7,000 cars sold worldwide.
Fisker later went on to do entrepreneurial work. Fisker Automotive, which was supposed to deliver a plug-in electric hybrid car, went bankrupt and was purchased by China’s Wanxiang Group Corp. in 2014. Today, Fisker is set to release a new car he designed, called the Force 1, which will go into production later this spring. The Wall Street Journal notes that it is still unclear which company will manufacture the 745 horsepower, $300,000 vehicle that Fisker has designed.
Fisker’s complaint accuses Aston Martin of dogging the designer and his erstwhile success. “Over the past year, Aston Martin has sent Fisker threatening letters, and its executives have made disparaging comments in the press, all in an effort to shun him from the industry,” Fisker’s lawyers write.
After Fisker released a top-view sketch of his Force 1 in December, Aston Martin sent the designer’s attorney a letter (PDF) saying that the sketch looked too similar to the Aston Martin DB10, which was designed for the most recent James Bond movie, but which will not be produced. “Please provide written assurances immediately that Fisker will either:  not show or display the version of the Force 1 vehicle shown in the above sketch (in any form, including prototypes and sketches) at the upcoming Detroit Auto Show starting January 11, or  will make design changes to the Force 1 vehicle before that Show to avoid conflict with Aston Martin’s rights,” Aston Martin’s attorney writes. “As Fisker knows, Aston Martin will not hesitate to protect its valuable rights if necessary.”
Asking for more than $100 million in damages from Aston Martin as well as a declaration that the Force 1 doesn’t infringe on Aston Martin’s copyrights, Fisker called the car company’s actions “extortion tactics” that “threaten to inflict extreme and irreparable damage on the individual who made car design fashionable.”
Aston Martin told the Journal that it thought the complaint was without merit but would not comment further on pending litigation.