Court demands Force India payment to Aerolab
22 March 2012 – Force India has been demanded to pay 700,000 pounds in damages to former wind tunnel partner Aerolab. The ruling is the latest twist in the disagreement which has been running since the end of 2009.
The dispute was first known when Aerolab claimed that Force India had not submitted their necessary fees for aerodynamic services. The two parties split and Aerolab began working with Lotus Racing (now Caterham F1) just days later. Responding, Force India accused Aerolab and Lotus Chief Technical Officer Mike Gascoyne (ex Force India Technical Director) of ‘systematic copying’ of the 2009 Force India car when designing the 2010 Lotus.
In August 2010, the High Court of London ordered Force India to pay Aerolab one million euros (£820,000) in unpaid fees. A date of 16 January 2012 was then set for a court hearing relating to the accusations of copyright infringement.
Aerolab has now admitted that certain employees copied computer files containing some Force India car details; as a result of this Aerolab mistake, GPUpdate.net learned that Caterham had received indennity in the case.
Force India continued to contend that its entire 2009 design was copied, on which a value was placed of 15 million pounds (reduced to 13 million pounds during the trial). Force India, which sacked Gascoyne in 2008, also stressed that Caterham F1 and Gascoyne were jointly responsible for copying the designs. However, the Honourable Mr Justice Arnold does not believe this happened.
“In my view Force India has come nowhere near establishing that (systematic copying of key parts of the Force India car, and in particular systematic copying of the aerodynamically significant parts) was the case,” the judge ruled, claiming that neither Gascoyne nor Caterham are liable for breach of confidence.
The Judge settled the dispute in Aerolab’s favour, ordering Force India to pay 850,000 euros (£706,000) for the unpaid fees. At the same time, Force India was awarded 25,000 euros (£21,000) in compensation for the accidental usage of a small amount of 2009 data, ruled to have been used as a ‘shortcut’ in the Lotus design process.
Force India stated on Wednesday night that it is now referring the matter to Formula 1 governing body the FIA, although it is believed the Silverstone-based team has already been attempting to do this for approximately two years.
A separate hearing has now been arranged to determine the legal costs Force India has incurred across the trial; it is believed they could equate to figures in the region of four million pounds. This blow comes as Kingfisher Airlines, owned by Force India Team Principal Vijay Mallya, is close to bankruptcy.