Two EV startups may soon be battling it out in court over alleged breach of contract and patent infringement.
EV startup Bollinger Motors filed a lawsuit this week in the U.S. District of Southern New York against Munro Vehicles, and its head designer, over alleged breach of contract, patent infringement and trade dress infringement, according to court documents.
The central figures in the lawsuit are the Bollinger B1 SUV and B2 truck, the Munro MK_1 SUV, and Ross Compton, a former contract designer for Bollinger who went on to become lead designer for Munro. Bollinger alleges in the lawsuit that Compton breached his contract and violated a mutual nondisclosure agreement by referring to confidential Bollinger files, with Munro’s awareness, while designing Munro products.
Bollinger also alleges that Munro has infringed on two of its patents for its original vehicle designs and trade dress infringement, a legal term that means the likeness between the brands’ products could cause confusion in a buyer’s mind. Bollinger claims that this will inflict irreparable harm to the brand.
Munro CEO Russell Peterson told TechCrunch in an emailed statement that the company is aware of the allegations raised by Bollinger Motors Inc.
“The company takes IP infringement extremely seriously and Munro intends to robustly defend its position over the unique design of the Munro MK_1 all-terrain vehicle,” he wrote.
Bollinger and Munro both have developed rugged all-terrain vehicles meant for commercial use. Scotland-based Munro is specifically targeting farmers, miners and those who work in heavy industry sectors. The company, which was founded in 2021 by Peterson and Ross Anderson, has said it plans to bring its Munro MK_1 to market in 2024.
Bollinger Motors, a Michigan-based startup founded by Robert Bollinger in 2015, is focused on producing all-electric commercial vehicles for classes 3 through 6. The company initially planned to produce the Bollinger B1 and B2 off-road electric SUV and pickup trucks. It later introduced a chassis designed for a class 3 commercial vehicle with the aim to expand its customer base.
Bollinger paused development on its B1 and B2 vehicles in January 2022. Nine months later, Mullen Automotive, an EV startup that went public via a merger with a special-purpose acquisition company, took a 60% stake in Bollinger. The transaction injected a needed $148.2 million into the startup.
The companies said, at the time, that the investment would help fast-track the development of Bollinger’s class commercial electric trucks, including a class 4 vehicle expected in 2023, and help it resume its consumer truck program. B4 production is now slated to begin in early 2024.
That extra capital seems to have done the job. The B1 and B2 consumer trucks are back on track, according to Robert Bollinger, who added that the company will announce production timing at a later date. Bollinger has working prototypes of the B4 and is planning pilot programs this summer.
Bollinger still maintains its own board of directors and Robert Bollinger continues to serve as the CEO. When asked about the lawsuit, Robert Bollinger said Mullen isn’t mentioned in the lawsuit because the company retains ownership of the IP portfolio and has the obligation of defending it.